GAFFNEY, SC (WSPA) – Sometimes the smallest request turns into an outpouring bigger than you could ever image, and that’s certainly been true for a Gaffney family with an autistic son.
23-year-old Austin Frady isn’t one of those guys who hides his feelings.
“He’s pretty much got his happy switch flipped on all the time,” Austin’s mom, Debbie, said.
Debbie said motorcycles is a close second to people on Austin’s happiness scale.
She explained that her son will never be able to ride one, though, because he has seizures.
In June, Austin’s dad posted a request on Facebook for patches to help fill a new leather biker vest for his son.
“It went viral, I think, three times,” Debbie said.
And as the weeks went on, tubs of mail arrived at the family’s Gaffney doorstep, containing 20 rings, and hats, countless knick knacks, 100 or more shirts, 1,500 pins and 5,000 patches.
Choosing a favorite is near impossible, as Austin’s autism makes him just the type to take the time to study and cherish each one.
“He appreciates everything that we got,” Debbie said. “Even if it was an envelope that only had one patch in it.”
Debbie, though, couldn’t help but pick some of her favorite patches the family has received — a patch to honor the life of Cassie from Kansas and a flag from a soldier that had seen several wars.
“This one, and I don’t know if I can talk about it without crying, but this is a little husband and wife. They’re 86 and 87 years old,” Debbie said, showing an emblem of a loving marriage they received, which is now part of Austin’s collection.
After only six weeks, the Frady’s had mail from nearly every state in the nation, and 12 countries around the world.
“Tennessee, Sweden, Switzerland, Thailand,” Debbie said reading a list.
As a way to say “thank you,” Debbie started writing hand-written notes, but pretty soon realized that she needed a new system — a postcard with Austin’s signature.
“I’m a southern girl,” she said. “You send thank you notes for gifts. It’s what you do.”
Frady finally had to put up a post saying they now are respectfully declining any more patches.
And it might have ended there, but a local chapter of Bikers for Christ saw how he inspired others, and organized the Austin Fray Autism Awareness Benefit Ride to raise money for the Special Olympics.
“It’s a wonderful thing to see the love this kid has,” Jody Steadman, with Bikers for Christ Upstate SC Chapter, said. “If half of us had just a piece of the love that he has, this world would be a better place to live in.”