Funds donated for youth with autism

Bows placed on fire trucks for Autism awareness

BURNHAM — For 10-year-old Max Hertzler, what began as a love of fire trucks inadvertently grew into a fundraiser that would help local youth with autism and other developmental disabilities.

During Autism Awareness Month, in April, young Hertzler and his family made bows to be placed on the front of the fire trucks at Burnham Fire Company, a station near their home.

From there, word spread to other area fire companies, who said wanted bows on their trucks to help spread awareness.

Before they knew it, the family was making bows for more than a half-dozen agencies, including Burnham Fire Company, Yeagertown Fire Company, Highland Fire Company, United Fire Company, City Hook and Ladder, Junction Fire Company, Granville Fire Company and Granville Police Department.

“I had to hurry up and buy more ribbon so I could make more bows,” Amanda Hertzler, Max’s mother said. “The whole thing got bigger than we expected…I don’t think (Max) understands the magnitude of what this became.”

Amanda said companies even offered donations to support awareness efforts, which jointly added up to $500. The family donated the funds to the Early Intervention/Preschool classroom.

The classroom operates through Tuscarora Intermediate Unit 11.

Amanda, who’s son benefited personally from the class, said she learned first-hand how important it is to address autism at a young age.

Max, who will soon be a fifth grader at Lewistown Intermediate Unit, was diagnosed at 18 months after multiple local doctors told the family to not worry about, what she considered to be, concerning symptoms.

“He was not speaking when a typical baby would start speaking. He just wasn’t doing things like a typical kid would. He was very delayed,” she said. Due to continued concerns, the family took Max to Hershey Medical Center, where he was diagnosed with autism.

Following the diagnosis, Amanda said Max was able to get care that he needed.

From ages 3 to 5, Max attended the preschool, where he built a foundation that he may not have otherwise gotten.

“He has gotten so much better. We truly believe it’s because of getting him diagnosed early and getting him the help he needed,” Amanda said.

Awareness, she said is important because “sometimes people have a hard time understanding” what autism looks like.

While Max didn’t speak until he was 5, his mother says he “looked like a normal kid” and others wouldn’t understand why he would get upset while the family was out in public.

“I think that’s where acceptance comes in. People don’t understand until you’re the one that’s going through it or you’re close with someone who has a child with autism.”

When the family received the donation from fire companies, they decided to the funds should go to classroom to help other youngsters who may be dealing with similar issues.

“We are so grateful for the Compass Center preschool classroom,” Amanda said in an email message. “He grew leaps and bounds because of the wonderful people that worked with him there. It really is an amazing place for children with autism to learn and grow before they attend a regular education classroom. “