Austin’s arms and legs were amputated after doctors detected a rare form of bacterial meningitis just before he turned 3 years old. The procedure was more than life-saving — it was life-altering.
When Austin entered kindergarten, he was living in an apartment with his mom, Heather Coffee, and his brother. The apartment wasn’t handicap-accessible and posed challenges for him and his family.
Coffee started a GoFundMe account to raise money for a handicap-accessible house.
His teachers, Tracy Schmidt and Holly Peterson, wanted to help.
He could accomplish so much at school when he was given tools to help complete school work, Peterson said, and she wanted Austin to have that opportunity for independence at home.
So Schmidt and Peterson created a committee known as “A Home for Austin.” The committee held multiple fundraisers and accepted donations and volunteer work from community members around Tea and Lennox. They reached their goal within three years.
At his new home, Austin can shower on his own, go outside with ramps and electronic door-openers and use a stool to reach the dining table and sit with his dad. These things and more offer a sense of independence he didn’t have before.
The house was built behind the Lennox High School and was moved to a lot in Tea in July 2014. Austin’s mom lives close by.
Schoppert said he’d never seen such a gathering of a community or the magnitude of what community members did for his son.
“It was a completely unselfish will of good hearts,” he said.
Before “A Home for Austin” started, people didn’t know how to help Austin even though they wanted to do something, Peterson said. “A Home for Austin” gave them that chance.
The support from the Tea and Lennox community is something so unique that it’s changed the community, Peterson said.
“Every time you drive by, you’re proud he’s in that house,” Peterson said. “If you bought a T-shirt to spreading the word on Facebook, you made an impact and it’s good that you get to see the result of your work every day.”