'Game changer'

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

-Tuohy supports Autumn's Center

Leigh Anne Tuohy, mother of Michael Oher from "The Blind Side," spoke at Seasons Center for Behavioral Health's annual event Wednesday evening. Tuohy explained how everyone has the ability to make a difference in another person's life like her family did for Michael Oher. Proceeds from the event went to benefit Seasons' new regional children's center called Autumn's Center. (Photo by Hanna Russmann)

The Clay County Regional Events Center ballroom was a full house Wednesday evening for the Seasons Center for Behavioral Health's annual event featuring Leigh Anne Tuohy and special guest Jennifer Elgersma. All proceeds from the event and the silent auction conducted during the event will benefit Autumn's Center, a new regional children's center.

Seasons Center Director Kim Scorza made a special announcement to kick-off the event.

"We didn't think we would be ready at this point to share this information, but just yesterday the Seasons Center was awarded a $600,000 grant for the Autumn Center," Scorza said. "We were also awarded a $192,000 tax credit from the state."

Scorza introduced special guest Jennifer Elgersma, of Orange City. Elgersma is mother of 3-year-old Autumn, who died Oct. 31, 2013 after being hospitalized for injuries she received at daycare. Autumn's Center was named in honor of Autumn's life.

"I wish there was a little girl here with me," Elgersma said. "I wish you could see her beautiful brown hair and her beautiful smile, but she can't be here. So, I am going to share with you her life."

Elgersma told the story of Autumn's short three years of life through pictures sharing both the good times and the bad. She detailed the warning signs of abuse she missed in the events that led up to Autumn's death.

"One day the doctor told us that Autumn's injuries were not compatible with life, and I am going to give you some time to think about what you want to do," she explained. "Phil and I looked at each other and said, 'We'll let her go.' You'll never win a tug of war with God ever. If you have something He wants, you have to let Him have it."

She continued, "... Our children are our most valuable assets. Big people take care of little people; they don't hurt little people. I praise God that I take pictures of my kids, and I would encourage you to take pictures of the people who matter in your life. There are days where this is all so surreal and I wonder, 'did this even happen?' I look at the pictures, and I remember that Autumn was here and she lived and she lived well. And, I pray we do the same."

Tuohy, best known as the mother of Michael Oher from the movie "The Blind Side," came to Spencer to support Seasons and its new Autumn's Center.

"I wouldn't have to go very far out that door to find a Michael Oher, and all they need is a chance. That's all they need." Tuohy said. "That's what Seasons Center does. They offer chances. They offer hope. They offer opportunities. This Autumn's Center for kids, that's a game changer. ... This organization is changing people's lives."

According to Tuohy, anyone can be a "game changer" in another person's life.

"All we did was turn our car around. It was a simple act of kindness that changed our lives forever," Tuohy explained. "... We were the ones that benefited. We learned to be givers. We got to give Michael love every day."

She continued,"... You were born with the ability to make a difference in someone's life. Doesn't matter how old you are, doesn't matter how young you are. My challenge to you is to do something that you didn't do yesterday. If you can foster a child or adopt a child, you can mentor them or you can read to them. There are an infinite amount of things you can do. ... There are so many deserving kids and all they need is a chance and you can do something about it."

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