The holidays are a time for appreciating selfless people and doing our best to follow their example. From A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving to It’s a Wonderful Life, there all kinds of heart-warming examples of the value of relationships and the virtues of being kind. At Revolutionary Clinics, we have a Hallmark Channel worthy story of our own in the form of a remarkable friendship between two staff members, Mike Miller and Jen Palladino.
Four years ago, Jen and her husband’s two-year old son Jared could not speak, eat or show any kind of emotion whatsoever. When Jared was diagnosed with autism, Jen was devastated but immediately threw herself into researching different resources, support groups and therapy programs to provide her son with best quality of life. As she was searching Facebook, she stumbled upon a group called Toys AUcross America, a small non-profit organization that raised money to buy toys and ship them to kids with autism. Jen quickly realized that Toys AUcross America was unlike any other group she’d discovered. Organized by the father of a teenage autistic son, Toys AUcross America was less an organization and more the passion project of a man who just wants to try make autistic kids smile. That man, is Mike Miller.
Mike founded Toys AUcross America in 2014 while he was working as a corporate chef. When his son outgrew his trainset, Mike asked if he could donate it to another child. Father and son felt so good after making an autistic child’s day, they decided to play “Autism Santa” and mail more toys to more autistic kids. Since that first trainset, Toys AUcross America has shipped thousands of toys all over the country and earned Mike and Jonathan the honor of being ABC’s Persons of the Week.
On the Toys AUcross America Facebook page, parents of autistic children enter free contests for the chance to have their children chosen to win a “prize”. When Jen first signed up, she had no expectations that she’d win anything but figured it didn’t hurt to try. To Jen’s amazement, she won a Kindle Fire tablet. Mike personally delivered the tablet to Jen’s home and created a friend for life. Six months after receiving the tablet and working with the different speech therapy applications that Jen was able to acquire from Jared’s therapist, Jared started speaking on his own for the very first time.
Today, Jared is integrated with non-autistic children in school where he is accepted by all the children, has a ton of friends and speaks above grade level for his age group. “I really believe Jared’s progress all started with the Fire tablet and speech apps that Autism Santa gave him for Christmas,” Jen says. “With therapy, dedication to the needs that Jared has, the help of his therapist and Autism Santa gifting him devices, Jared is the most loving, smart caring little person and is treated like a regular kid in society.”
As we mentioned earlier, Jen and Mike became great friends through their shared experience of raising autistic boys and the joy of watching Jared progress. As General Manager of our Fawcett Street dispensary, Jen is responsible for hiring all of the staff that work behind the dispensary counter and behind the scenes in our fulfillment department. Jen is incredibly passionate about finding employees who are not only qualified but share her values and work ethic. Earlier this year when Jen was recruiting for a Fullfillment Coordinator, she shared the position on her personal Facebook page where Mike saw it. A few weeks later, Mike was the newest member of the Fawcett Street fulfillment team working a new job he absolutely loves. As you can imagine, the rest of the staff at Fawcett Street loves Mike right back and supports his passion for helping kids with autism feel special for all the right reasons.
So much so, for the entire month of November, the staff at both of our clinics will be collecting change from patients and staff alike and donating all of the money to Toys AUcross America.
If you thought that was the end of our feel-good story, get ready for an extra dose of amazement that will restore your faith in the idea that “good things happen to good people”.
After Mike accepted his new job at Rev Clinics, he took a couple of days off to spend time with his family and to check out the new Encore Casino in Boston. For fun, he entered their Labor Day of Luxury Giveaway contest to win a new car. To Mike’s utter disbelief, he won the grand prize of a 2019 McLaren Spider sports car. Since a two-seater isn’t much good for transporting toys, Mike opted for a $100,000 cash prize which has changed his life. He’s working a job he loves with people he enjoys and has more time and resources to devote to his beloved charity.
At Revolutionary Clinics, we’re happy to keep the good karma rolling for Mike and Toys AUcross America. If you’d like to donate, please look for the jars at our dispensaries or visit Mike’s Facebook page today!