Today is Thursday, August 17, 2017

Pushing through the holidays - with purpose

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Family progresses with Teen Center in lost son's honor

The holidays are here.

The Wilkerson family will most likely be on their knees at some point - when they are smacked in the face the billionth time and miss the crazy antics of young Austin, who died last year, Sept. 23, on his 17th birthday, from some insanely stupid thing called brain arteriovenous malformation.

Who ever thought they would say RIP 9.23.14? It's a harsh and ugly reality.

Pushing through.

Remembering the fun times.

Especially during these days meant for family get-togethers and just enjoying.

There's a video on YouTube. Austin's favorite holiday is Halloween and he loved to scare people, especially in a creepy clown costume.

Back to the video.

It's of this lost young man's family in "Austin shirts" and clown masks dancing to "Whip it Nay-Nay." They know he would love it.

Austin's step-mom, Angela, hopes the silly tribute will make people smile.

Because, you have to smile to keep from crying, she said.


But, there's some real progress on Austin's family's quest to somehow have a permanent tribute to their son. Austin's mom, Brianna, and Angela, have been trying to build a teen center in his honor, and it's this project's force that helps them get through things like Thanksgiving and Christmas.

"We have hired an architect to draw up plans for the center," Angela said this week. "We have a concrete visual of what we are trying to accomplish so we can show people, and they can see what we see. Then maybe an 'angel donor' and the community at large will rally around achieving this a bit more ambitiously. I'd love to stir the momentum up more!"

The moms explained Austin had a passion for life and a love for others and would have loved a teen center to occupy his time. And while a teen center most likely will happen (they won't stop until it does), during this holiday season they are promoting "random acts of kindness."

"We had a hard time trying to figure out what to do to celebrate him," Angela said. "Our solution was to focus on the joy he brings us and to celebrate his joy for living life by continuing his legacy and doing Random Acts of Kindness (RAK) in his honor.

"Our little blended family chose to bless the Mt. Juliet Police Department, as they stepped up and supported us when we lost Austin, and they even formed a team for our kickball tournament last year at the Kickin' It For Austin fund raiser that some friends did for us.

"We also made some cupcakes and took them to the PICU nurses at Vanderbilt Children's Hospital who took care of Austin to thank them for their care and compassion."

Angela said it was a "hard pill to swallow" to go back the hospital, "but, there was no place more important for us to bless and love on than the ones who held our hearts so tenderly when we were our most fragile."

They hope to soon share plans for the center with the community, and are thankful for those who participated in a recent yard sale organized to raise money for the effort.

"We invite the community to join us in doing RAKs in honor of Austin, " said Angela. "We've heard some amazing stories that truly blessed us! We had a friend who stood outside a McDonald's drive through and paid for three vehicles meals while sharing our Austin and his story. There was another lady who went on Hip Mt. Juliet and posted about someone buying her meal and sharing Austin and his story with her as well - this lady being a complete stranger to us really blessed our hearts knowing that the love of Austin was being spread and passed around!"

The last few months have been difficult, but they spend time filling out paperwork for a non-profit.

Christmas morning... they can't really imagine their emotions, but urge everyone to hold their loved ones close. Taking care of building a teen center helps ease the pain.

"Meeting with the architect and looking at how it will all flow together and the feel that we want the kids to have when they are there has been helpful in re-evaluating what we want to cross off and what we want to add on," Angela said.

"We are very excited about what we have narrowed down and are extremely anxious to share it with everyone!"

Writer Laurie Everett may be contacted at

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Austin Wilkerson, Christmas, family, holidays, Mt. Juliet, random acts of kindness, teen, teen center, Thanksgiving
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