Blind since age four, Autumn Michels had just one dream when she grew to become a highschool freshman this yr: to play the clarinet and carry out on the soccer area with the varsity’s marching band.
“I’ve all the time cherished music and I wished greater than something to march,” the 14-year-old from Laingsburg, Michigan, tells PEOPLE, “however I wasn’t positive how that may work out.”
Enter Rachael Steffens.
The Laingsburg Excessive College senior met Autumn at a summer time band camp and volunteered when college began to surrender taking part in the cymbals on the sector in order that she may very well be Autumn’s eyes throughout marching occasions.
“I had helped her at band camp,” says Rachael, 17, “and we’d grow to be shut mates. I’m in admiration of Autumn’s optimistic perspective and her nice humorousness. She deserves an opportunity to march with the remainder of the band, and I’m glad to make that occur.”
In school, Autumn can discover her method to her lessons with a cane, however marching in formation on an uneven soccer area is one other matter. With Rachael in step behind her, although, firmly gripping her shoulders, she is aware of precisely which course to show.
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“She steers me and I’m in a position to sustain with everyone else simply positive,” says Autumn. “I’m having a tremendous expertise with the band, because of Rachael.”
Life has all the time been difficult for the petite teen, “however she’s by no means given up and has simply discovered new methods of doing issues,” says Autumn’s mom, Angie Michels, who works as a dental hygienist in Laingsburg. “From the very starting, she’s introduced folks into her life by means of her smiles and positivity.”
After an inoperable mind tumor was discovered close to Autumn’s optic nerve when she was 7 months outdated, her imaginative and prescient steadily worsened till surgeons operated when she was four to take away as a lot of the tumor as they may.
“As a result of the tumor had broken her optic nerve,” says Autumn’s father, Jason, an data technologist for the state of Michigan, “we elected to have it eliminated. A number of the tumor is inoperable and continues to be there, and there was an actual risk up till her newest MRI a couple of weeks in the past, that it may take her life. Fortunately, we now have the very best information ever — it’s lastly reached the stage the place it’s not going to develop a lot any extra.”
The oldest of three youngsters (sister Kendall is eight and brother Jace is four), Autumn realized to play the clarinet as a sixth-grader, memorizing every tune so shortly that it didn’t matter whether or not she may see sheet music.
“She’s all the time caught on in a short time,” Angie tells PEOPLE, “and music immediately grew to become her ardour.”
Dwelling in a non-sighted world has by no means bothered her daughter, who describes yellow as “sunshine and heat” and pink as “love and roses.”
“Sure, there may be darkness,” says Autumn, “however I’ve realized to ‘see’ issues in different methods.” Via description and contact, “I do know colours and flowers and a blue sky,” she tells PEOPLE. “I actually don’t thoughts not having my imaginative and prescient as a result of it helps me to see everybody in my life equally.”
Not less than one particular person, although, rises above the remaining.
“Rachael is the very best buddy anybody may have,” says Autumn, “and I don’t suppose I’ll ever be capable to thank her sufficient for what she’s doing.”
Rachael, who plans to main in musical theater in faculty as soon as she graduates, says she will be able to’t think about spending her senior yr some other means.
“I nonetheless get to play my cymbals within the stands, and I’ve had the expertise of marching earlier than,” she tells PEOPLE. “Guiding Autumn on the sector and seeing how a lot she enjoys is making my final yr in highschool a memorable one. It’s been a whole lot of enjoyable for each of us.”