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Angels In Our Midst

Angels In Our Midst

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Updated: Monday, June 30 2014, 07:54 PM CDT
Jake Gross is a retired Air Force and corporate pilot who wasn't particularly looking for anything to do.
He says it was divine intervention that placed in his path another opportunity to serve.

"Heidi Blalock, Emerald Coast Autism Center, CEO;  We started this school really to help students on all ends of the autism spectrum; have a place that they can call home.  Where they can learn and be productive.

Jake Gross was a member of the church where the Emerald Coast Autism Center held their first classes.  He saw the humble beginnings.

She started off with four students and four therapists.
It grew so fast and so rapidly, in about four years she had over 60 students and 40 full time employees.

From the beginning, Mr. Jake knew this concept of intensive, one-on-one instruction was something special and something he wanted to be a part of.

Jake Gross, Emerald Coast Autism Center Volunteer;  I have a grandson who had infantile epilepsy, and I'll use the term, extreme; he has extreme Autism.  So, uh, it really opened my eyes.

While his grandson lives away and can't take advantage of this school's special services, Mr. Jake still offered his services as a volunteer- and he's been that and so much more.

Jake;  I fix toilets, change lightbulbs, ballasts; just light handyman work.
Heidi;  He has always been there for anything that we need.  He changes our lightbulbs.  He helps us with the facility.  He is a constant source of support.

Mr. Jake is also right there lending a hand, an ear, a shoulder for the children and the staff.  He's Santa at Christmas time and a fund raiser.

Heidi;  He sees the struggles that these families go through because he's seen it in his own family. 
 He also sees the dramatic transformation that occurs in the lives of these students.  They are changes that many of the parents never thought possible.  Each one touches him as much as it does them.

Jake;  A major came back from Afghanistan.
His daughter had never spoken to him.  And when he got off the airplane, he said, the first words she said were, I love you daddy.

Heidi;  I'm a parent.  I know.  It's hard sometimes to go out into situations where you know your child is going to behave different from other kids his age.  And for Jake to come in and always have open arms and accept every child in this facility for who he or she is, is a huge blessing.

It's all about the kids.
Jake;  I walk away with a feeling that, just makes me feel good, that's all.

Angels in our Midst is brought to you by the Children's Hospital at Sacred Heart.


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