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Ten-year-old pays kindness forward

Donations will help buy service dog for girl

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POSTED: August 23, 2010 1:36 p.m.
Photo by Mike Riddle/

Austin Morgan holds a money order for $130, which he raised to help a Fort Stewart family buy an autism service dog for their 5-year-old daughter.

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Last Christmas, Austin Morgan needed a little help. Money was tight for his family and the holidays weren’t looking bright. In the nick of time, however, several groups came to the  10-year-old’s aid — the Long County Wingmen Club, the Long County Star Program and the Ludowici Police Department. Members of the three organizations stuffed Austin’s stocking with clothes and goodies and parked two shiny, new bicycles beneath his tree, giving the youngster a particularly memorable Christmas.
Austin has not forgotten the kindness shown to him by strangers, and he recently decided to pay it forward. Through a letter published in the Coastal Courier, the boy learned of someone else in need, Kathryn Ross-Schmid.
Kathryn, 5, has autism, a neural development disorder characterized by impaired social interaction and communication, and by restricted and repetitive behavior. Autistic children develop symptoms before they are 3 years old.
Austin saw a letter written to the newspaper’s editor by Kathryn’s mother, Regina Ross-Schmid, who is raising money to buy her daughter an autism service dog, animals specially trained to help autistic children cope with the unique challenges they face. Ross-Schmid said 4 Paws for Ability, an organization that trains and places service dogs with disabled individuals, agreed to provide Kathryn with an autism service dog for $13,000. The canines usually cost anywhere from $10,000-$15,000.
Austin decided to help Kathryn get her dog by raising as much money as he could. The eager child hopped on one of the bikes given to him in his time of need and rode around Ludowici, telling Kathryn’s story and soliciting donations from residents.
Austin raised $130. The boy said he understands it’s not enough to buy the dog, but he’s not giving up. Austin is encouraging others to follow his lead and do their part.
 “There are a lot of people out there and I know they can help, and they need to … it makes you feel good to help somebody, and they need to help her so that they will feel good, too,” Austin said.
Kathryn’s mother was overcome with emotion when she learned of Austin’s good deed. “Oh, wow! I don’t know what to say —I have goose bumps right now,” Ross-Schmid said. “Bless his little heart. I would like to thank him from the bottom of my heart. I just thank that little boy so much. Wow!”
Ludowici Police Department Officer Diannia Duncan, who helped orchestrate Austin’s Christmas surprise last year, also was amazed at the child’s generosity.
“Austin is such a great kid,” she said. “He went all over the town over the last two weeks of his summer break, out in the heat, raising money for this little girl.”
The soaring temperatures didn’t bother Austin, who said he enjoys helping others so much he’d like to make a career of it as a police officer.
 “I want to keep helping people, and I think being a police officer is a good way to do that,” he said. I hope the Chief (Richard Robertson) will hire me to be a police officer when I grow up.”
The boy, who learned to be charitable by example, didn’t think twice about taking up Kathryn’s cause.
“I just thought people were so good helping me last year that I wanted to do something to help someone else … Ms. Diannia told me about Kathryn and I thought I would like to help her,” Austin said.
Ross-Schmid said she’s very grateful for Austin’s contribution, which will bring her fundraising total to $565.50 so far. She has several fundraisers planned, the first of which is coming up soon. She hopes Austin will drop by.
“We’ve got a fundraiser planned for Aug. 30 at Chuck E. Cheese in Savannah, and I would love to meet this little boy,” Ross-Schmid said. “What he did — that is just outstanding.”
Duncan was quick to praise Austin’s sense of altruism.
“It melts your heart, thinking about what he did,” she said. “And it shows everyone that there really are some good kids out there who want to do good and are doing good.”
To make a donation, make checks out to “In honor of Kathryn Ross-Schmid” and mail them to:
4 Paws for Ability
253 Dayton Ave.
Xenia, OH 15385
Or to
Regina Ross-Schmid
P.O. Box 3972
Fort Stewart, GA 31315
For more information, go to www.4paws4Kathryn.org or call 970-744-8857.
 

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