The Austin Shepherd Foundation
Contact us: AustinShepherdFoundation@gmail.com
As fate would have it, I met Jenna King my freshman year in college and we started dating a year later. As we got closer, I learned that her older brother, Jon, had passed away after a 14-year fight against bone cancer. He was 24 when he passed. She always talked about her brother and about the hope, love, faith, and support that helped him survive so long. In September of 2012, we decided we wanted to get involved with the hospital he spent a great deal of his life in, Children's of Alabama in Birmingham. We contacted family services and set up a time to visit and do activities with the patients and their families. That was a life-changing experience for me. I met one family who had been living in the hospital for nine weeks, fighting to save their blind and very sick daughter. The family told me about how they would be home for a week, then travel to Cincinnati, Ohio for more treatment. I could not imagine the stress of that experience. We saw children under a year old who were already starting their fights against life-threatening diseases, and we saw toddlers walking around with IV stands. It was a reality check that made me appreciate my life and abilities more than ever before. The kids, families, and even the nurses were so thankful for our visit. The kids loved the crafts and the goodie bags we brought, and we were able to begin building relationships with the families. A 16-year-old girl who had just had colon surgery took a picture with me and said, "Man, my friends are going to be so jealous! I guess there are perks to being so sick!" It was great to know that I had made her day better just by being there.
I had been talking with Jenna and my family about starting a foundation to help others for a while. After the visit, I told Jenna that this was going to be my foundation. I want to help save the lives of these children. I want to encourage them, fight beside them, and help them to see that life is worth fighting for. Even though I never met Jon, I wish I could thank him for changing my life and inspiring me to change the lives of others. We formally launched ASF on October 18, 2012; the 11 year anniversary of Jon King's death.