After attending the graduation ceremony of Holy Family Academy in Manchester, NH, Christopher asked the question, “Why can’t I go there?” The reason was clear, you are totally blind, you have autism, you would need support services that are costly. There would be few, if any teachers trained in special education, plus, the academics are rigorous, above your comprehension level. Months later I would discover that they had changed their admissions policy, they were open to each and every student that came through the door. I had nothing to lose, why not show them how Christopher learns and talk about the possibility of him entering 8th grade?

After our hour-long meeting, we all decided it was worth venturing into. With mom at his side (as a temporary paraprofessional of sorts), Christopher began his journey and Holy Family Academy began its adventure, admitting the first blind student into its school.

This experience awakened a calling, to not only advocate for inclusive education, but to make it a reality by funding teachers, paraeducators and other needs. The first step in doing this was to transform our existing non-profit of Know Greater Love Ministries into the Fire Foundation of NH. After much research, the best way was to become an affiliate of the FIRE Foundation of Kansas City, MO.

It was in the Kansas City diocese that five families decided to also do something about the education for their children with special needs, wanting them to attend Catholic schools with their siblings. They founded the Foundation for Inclusive Religious Education (FIRE) and raised the needed funds that enabled three of the children to attend their parish elementary school. That was in 1996. Now 2019, they have invested over $5 million in inclusive education and we carry their torch into NH.

It has been messy, difficult and all-consuming at times over the last three years. What matters is that every day my son shines in who he is. He has the opportunity to attended catholic school like his siblings. He has impacted the school with his talents, with his humor and most importantly, the example of his life. We are all created in the image and likeness of God, and through this, Christopher shows others that he too is just as valuable. He has also showed them that blindness and autism are not limitations, but a call to do things differently and that he too can learn.

Christopher’s education at Holy Family Academy has also come with a huge price tag, well above his tuition. It has been through private donations that he can still attend. There is a need, a great need. Join me, join us, join a mission that changes not only the lives of the student, but the family, the school and the parish community. Join me NOW, click here.

Together, we can make this happen, thank you,

Christine Duffley

FIRE Foundation of NH

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Fire Foundation of NH is pleased to be an affiliate of Fire Foundation in Kansas City, MO