Ray of sunshine: Boy, 9, takes volunteering to heart
by Sally Litchfield
MDJ Features Editor
September 07, 2012 12:31 AM | 1844 views | 0 0 comments | 7 7 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Chase James, 9, makes a regular visit to Sunrise Senior Living resident Mary Ann McCall and walks with her around the center. During his most recent visit, he gave her flowers. <br> Photo by Todd Hull
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Each week, 9-year-old Chase James, the son of Kevin and Melanie James, brightens the doorways of Sunrise Senior Living at 1551 Johnson Ferry Road through his volunteer work. Melanie said, “Volunteering (at Sunrise) was completely his idea.”

“I like helping them. I like the people over there,” Chase said. “I would miss it if I didn’t go.”

He said he likes walking “Miss Mary Ann” and dancing. “It’s a lot of fun,” he said.

Chase, an East Valley Elementary School student, is special by virtue of his volunteer spirit. He is also special because he knows no limitations due to a diagnosis of autism.

According to www.autism-society.org, autism is a complex developmental disability that typically appears during the first three years of life and affects a person’s ability to communicate and interact with others. Melanie said autism affects people differently. She said Chase is very articulate but faces cognitive issues as well as physical, occupational and social challenges.

“Anyone who has autism is unique,” she said. “Nobody is exactly like the next person. That’s what makes it a unique diagnosis.”

She said Chase had a desire to help older people and developed a foundation for volunteering through his grandparents, Eunice and John Melzer. They have volunteered at MUST Ministries twice a week for the last eight years.

“(Chase’s grandparents) have been instrumental in his life since day one,” Melanie said. Chase accompanied his grandparents to MUST on numerous occasions.

“I think because he spent so much time at MUST Ministries helping that (volunteering) really got into his psyche,” Melanie said.

Chase said, “They took care of people at one time who were my age. Now it’s my turn to take care of them.”
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