Local Teen with Autism Makes Christmas Cards to Raise Money for Research
Maybe you’ve seen them around the Hayward area during Christmas time over the years selling handmade Christmas cards. Maybe you’ve purchased Giizhik’s cards. If you have, then you’ve helped in the fight against Autism.
Pam Miller is a local Hayward woman whose son Giizhik was diagnosed with autism when he was five years old, and not long after, he began making Christmas cards. Pam has been taking Giizhik and his cards to craft fairs and retailers around town every holiday season selling the cards and donating money to autism research.
University of Wisconsin officials released a news article about Giizhik and his cards that will be on sale at the Waisman Center at UW-Madison where you can meet Pam and Giizhik. His cards are also available for sale on line.
According to the UW news release, his mother states, “He would come home after a long day at school and begin his lengthy and busy drawing regime. Page after page of drawings would spill from his fervently moving mind and hands.”
Pam was inspired to use Giizhik’s designs as holiday cards to raise funds and awareness for autism research, “It is our hope that with the proceeds generated from the sale of our holiday cards, we will one day unravel the autism puzzle.”
Photo by Giizhik, cover photo is a UW photo
Boy with Autism funds research with hand drawn holiday cards
Giizhik Klawiter has never been so much as a visitor to the University of Wisconsin–Madison’s Waisman Center, but the 10-year-old boy with autism from Hayward, Wis., is one of the most faithful supporters of the center’s developmental disabilities research.
For four years, Giizhik’s mother, Pam Miller, has visited Walmart, the casino, grocery stores and craft fairs to sell Christmas cards designed by Giizhik (whose name means “white cedar” in Ojibwe) and his brother Mino (short for Minode’e, loosely “has a kind heart”).
“So far we’ve been able to donate about $5,600 with the cards, and from the start we wanted that money to go to research,” Miller says. “I know it’s important for families like us to have other things — support and services — but I wanted to help research, so that we’d keep learning about autism.”
Miller knows quite a bit already. The jaunty snowmen and colorful Christmas trees on Giizhik’s holiday cards actually began as a kind of ad hoc therapy.
“He had just turned 6, and he drew a lot,” Miller says. “Just stacks of paper — draw and flip, draw and flip, draw and flip — especially when he was nonverbal. It was an outlet for him.”
One day Giizhik asked his dad, Mike Klawiter, to help him with a story about Christmas. With the assistance of a friend who works at a printing company, Miller turned the construction paper art into a greeting card. Another friend, whose mother is a special education teacher, recommended the Waisman Center as a worthy beneficiary.