By Michael ‘Autism Santa’ Miller
Hello everyone. Hope you don’t mind a story. As you can see I am Michael Miller, my alternate “ego” is Autism Santa. I started a page on Facebook last July called Toys AUcross America. My son and I send toys all across the USA to children on the Autism Spectrum. Just to put a smile on their face, if only for a minute, an hour, a day or a lifetime.
It all started with a simple post on Facebook in an Autism support group “World of Autism-Making it a Positive One”. I offered to mail a couple Thomas trains or Disney Cars to a few children of parents of the group. I thought it would be “Cool” for them to get a package in the mail. My son had collected (or I collected still not sure who’s obsession it was) a large number of both CARS and Thomas trains. Now that his new obsessions are strictly “electric” poor Thomas and McQueen were wasting away in our boiler room. The response to the post was a little overwhelming and I found my self constantly looking up the post and going in order and mailing trains and cars, probably a package a day for a couple weeks. Which was suppose to be a package a week, don’t tell my wife. I got tired of looking up the post and contacting everyone for addresses so I decided to make a “Toys” page.
We needed a name. My wife suggested Toys Around the World. I thought that was fabulous but “world” was not going to happen for financial reasons. So I changed it to Toys Across America. Then added the AUcross to get the Autism in there. That way everyone who was interested could come to the page and we could get the info and such. Well it was very popular and we got bombarded with requests the first couple months. The only thing we asked for in return was a picture of the child with the gift for the page. A lot of the parents wanted to see the smiles we were delivering.
Soon my sons toys were gone and my money was gone. We had to do something to keep it going and luckily crowd funding was just taking off so I created a donations page. Soon we were getting donations from members of the Autism community. The community as a whole began to rise up around us. I had a frequent saying, “Hey, I’m just a dad mailing trains”, because everyone kept praising what we were doing and I guess I wasn’t used to the accolades. Even boxes of toys were sent to us. Two High School girls in Ohio did a toy drive, we had sent one of the girls a Barbie, to the tune of about 75 new toys that arrived at our home shortly before Christmas. We got cars and such from 2 boys both under the age of 7. They gathered up their toys and shipped them to us. We even got financial donations from foreign countries even though we were only doing the USA. We got donations from Australia, New Zealand, UK, Japan, Israel and Singapore. So we kept finding kids to mail toys too. At first it was in fact “Cool” just to get a package in the child’s name. Some of the pictures we received the children had the biggest smiles on their faces and they did not even know what was inside the box. I realized the gift inside was going to have to be just as “Cool”. So we started asking what each child likes as far as a toy goes and we try and send the “perfect” gift.Which led to more smiles and more accolades. Hey like I said “I’m just a dad mailing trains.”
To date we have sent out over 650 toys/gifts, we have mailed at least 1 gift to all 50 States a few to Canada and 2 to Puerto Rico. We recently started a 2nd fund “Toys AUcross America” iPad fund. Every time we raise $350 we are going to purchase an iPad mini and give it to a child on the Spectrum. We have gifted 2 iPads so far and coincidentally we are giving one away tomorrow. Also I have managed to get a few weighted blankets donated to the page and have been giving them away as well.
The stories I have received in return for a slight gesture have been extraordinary. From children “talking” when they open their gift, sleeping with their gift, traveling everywhere with it. One boy we sent Yu GI OH cards too joined a Yu GI Oh club and made a whole group of friends and recently attended a convention, mom gives us all the credit. I have managed to bring a community or as one mom said “a country” together.
This is the story of Toys AUcross America and how I became known as Autism Santa:
A simple offer from a Dad.
A toy or two that his son had.
A simple gesture from a son.
To let them go one by one.
A simple smile from a child.
To make this thing go wild.
Ho, ho, hope! Autism Santa