ROGERSVILLE, Ala. (WHNT) – James Michael Hawkins, affectionately known by family and friends in Rogersville as JM, was diagnosed with autism at the tender age of one. His parents Matt and Ashley have been there every step of the way to ensure he has everything he needs.
The “tight-knit” community of Lauderdale County gathered at Rogersville Recreational Park Saturday to help lighten that load with the 2nd Annual Autism Awareness Fundraiser for “JM’s Journey”.
“It was a good success last year,” said Matt Hawkins. “This year we decided to do that again to help with the additional cost of training as well as the additional that we incur by sending him to the Riley Center in Huntsville.”
A cost Hawkins says is not covered by their insurance. All proceeds from the fundraiser help pay for JM’s medical services and support his non-profit organization “JM’s Journey”.
The autism awareness fundraiser featured live music, food trucks, arts and crafts vendors, a car show, train rides and a special performance from Season 13 Finalist on The Voice, Red Marlow.
Matt Hawkins says Marlow has a special place in JM’s life.
“There’s a particular song that he (Marlow) sings, and if James Michael is having a bad day or he’s having a meltdown, it will calm him down.”
Today, JM is a “happy and enthusiastic” seven-year-old with much to teach and share despite his inability to speak. His condition leaves him non-verbal but he’s attending sign language and speech therapy classes to help communicate with those around him. The family also gained a service dog to help JM when in need.
The community, or their “village” as the family likes to refer to them has stepped in each year to lift the financial burden.
“They’ve all been so great about coming out and supporting him and making sure that all this money goes toward him and getting a good education because at the end of the day that’s what it’s all about. It’s because of them that we’re able to get him the education he needs and I can’t thank them enough.”
John Parsley met the Hawkins a little over a year ago and has helped raise money for JM’s medical services. He said seeing a smile on JM’s face makes the effort worthwhile.
“Any time they can get out and enjoy themselves and the kids can enjoy themselves and we can help with that, that’s enough for me and it makes me feel good that you can help someone like that.”
To learn more about JM’s Journey and how you can donate, click here.