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Genevieve Chaput had never imagined that she’d be parting ways with her beloved home in Baton Rouge, until the late Hurricane Katrina left the house in ruins. Anxious to get away from the remains of the storm, Genevieve and her son, Jeremy, took a trip to Savannah, Georgia. There, she fell in love with the Hostess City. Without hesitation, she decided that it would be the perfect, new home for her family. Genevieve was excited about the transition, eager for the opportunity of a new beginning. However, one concern left her feeling rather cautious.

Jeremy had been diagnosed with autism at a very early age. “He wouldn’t talk. He wouldn’t look me in the eyes. It was as though he was stuck in his own world, and I couldn’t figure out how to reach him,” said Genevieve. Prior to the storm, the troubled mother was overcome by the lack of resources being offered to autistic children in her area. Families were limited to costly, private therapists or boarding schools­—neither of which was an option for Jeremy. Assuming that she’d be up against a similar issue in Savannah, Genevieve was worried about her son’s wellbeing.

“I did not want to think of my son being any different from anyone else. I wanted him to go to school. I wanted him to be able to socialize with other children so that he could learn how to live with society. I didn’t want him to be sheltered or cut-off from everything.”

Fortunately, Genevieve found a solution that would provide Jeremy with an opportunity of a lifetime. “Scottish Rite was doing some therapy with him, and they recommended the Kicklighter Academy. We didn’t know how we would be able to afford it, but United Way of the Coastal Empire stepped in and provided him with financial assistance. Jeremy was able to improve his verbal skills almost immediately…That first year of assistance paved the way for my son’s future. He is now able to lead a more independent life alongside everyone else,” said Genevieve. Jeremy was also very vocal about his wonderful experience with Kicklighter Academy, speaking highly of his school friends and subjects. Because of United Way’s partnership with Kicklighter Academy, Jeremy is aiming towards success—something he once deemed unattainable.

United Way is all about the ripple effect of giving. Our support—YOUR support—is everlasting. Fifteen years ago, Jeremy’s family approached us with a need. At the age of 17, Jeremy continues to prosper from our response to that need. And that is the goal of our mission. We seek to implement an everlasting change in the lives of those who are depending upon our assistance. We are committed to serving residents, like Jeremy and Genevieve, because the effect of our service has the ability to magnify beyond our wildest expectations.

“Thank you from the bottom of my heart. I don’t think my son would be where he is without your donations. I can actually talk to my son now. We can communicate and understand one another. He’s doing great now. Don’t stop giving because there are so many families in need, and it helps so much,” said Genevieve.

As always, United Way is thankful for your generosity as well. We truly appreciate your support for residents, like Jeremy and Genevieve. If you’d like to continue your support, please visit our website.

-Malarie Williams

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