Where Are They Today?

Following the Lives of our Featured Readers

During our seven years of publication, the MAR has featured various individuals, their journeys, their struggles and their successes. But where are they today? We attempted to contact several of our featured readers, to ask them that very question. A few responded, and here is the rest of their story, to date:

Erik Burington was featured in our August 2014 issue, celebrating his journey from a struggling teen, to an influential and motivated adult. At the time, Erik was just starting his college journey.

Where is he today? Erik is still in college, but had the exciting adventure of volunteering at an elephant reserve for a month in South Africa. “I’ve always wanted to go to Africa, and this was a great opportunity for me!” said Erik. He has his driver’s license, and for a while, lived in an apartment with a roommate.

He is now finishing his undergraduate studies at OTC, then hopes to transfer to MSU to pursue a degree in wildlife management. He presently lives at home, and continues to work at the zoo, where he interned during high school.

We met Trey Brand in our May 2013 issue when at 11 years old, he bowled a perfect 300 game, and again, in our July 2016 issue, when he was honored by the City of Battlefield, for his bowling accomplishments.

Where is he today? Trey is now 15 years old and currently competing in SMJGA Golf tournaments in the 13 to 15 year-old division. He won first place at Pointe Royale in Branson on October 8th. Trey decided to take a break from bowling and concentrate on golf this last year. He is currently starting back up in bowling, while continuing golf tournaments, at this time. He is currently in the 10th grade. We would like to thank MAR and everyone who has always supported Trey and will continue to support the road he follows into the future.

From some of our very earliest issues, Dr. Sonia O’Donnell McGowin gave us tips on everything from eating to winter colds, and all the info in-between. She quickly became a favorite among our readers.

Where is she today? Sonia opened Covenant Integrative Wellness, LLC in May 2017, a private practice focusing on kids with autism and other neurodevelopmental issues, as well as the education of doctors and other professionals in the biomedical aspects of autism. She may be reached at (573)635-6217, 1022 Northeast Drive, Suite B, Jefferson City MO 65109.

We met Haleigh Johnson, when her mom shared her Transition Story in our May 2015 issue.

Where is Haleigh now? After graduation, Haleigh was hired as a Food Service Tech, with Mercy Hospital. On Mercy Day at Hammon’s Field, last August, she threw out a first pitch. She is an avid Cardinals’ fan and had a fun time with her Dad and co-workers on the field.

Haleigh plays in the adult group for the Miracle League at the Betty and Bobby Allison Miracle League Field and participates in their bowling league, as well. She also goes to a 7-week program through the Park Board, called TEAM, an acronym for Travel, Entertainment, Art, and Music. They do field trips and group activities for people with a wide variety of disabilities. Between working 25-30 hours a week, and activities 2-3 evenings a week, she is a busy young lady. The family continues to go to Disney World together, about three times a year. Haleigh has come a long way in 2 years, and after all her accomplishments thus far, the future is truly promising.

We first met Justin Grauel when we followed his graduation story in the June 2014 issue.

What is Justin doing now? Since graduation, life has been very busy for Justin, now 25, and his mom, Lorinda. They spend a lot of time at the Lake of the Ozarks, where Justin enjoys boating, swimming, riding the wave runner, hiking, going to concerts, dancing and making new friends. They attend several conferences each year, including the Real Voices/Real Choices and People First conferences and Legislative Days in Jeff City. “Our calendar is always full, as it is very important to keep Justin active and engaged,” said Lorinda

Justin is very social and loves to be out and about in the community. They joined Community Christian Church in Camdenton where Justin is a greeter, helps with deacon duties, and assists with various functions and events. He delivers Meals on Wheels and was specifically recognized as one who spreads joy and love at an appreciation banquet. The people love seeing him and he often surprises them with a card or picture he has made. Once a year, mom and son travel to Oklahoma City where they volunteer as car hosts at A Day Out With Thomas. Justin enjoys getting all decked out in his train garb.

Justin truly touches the lives of everyone he meets in a unique and special way.

We featured Andrew Licis in our September 2012 issue, as the “Magic Cookie Baker” at Mama Jean’s Health Food Store, and again in our June 2015 issue, when he graduated with his Associate’s Degree from OTC.

Where is Andrew now? His mother, Julie, shares that he is still working at Mama Jean’s, but has moved up to food prep for the deli. He loves his job, and is constantly learning new things. Andrew also has his driver’s license, which has given them both more freedom. He often goes to Walmart and purchases items for his mom, and appreciates being able to go places without depending on others. He enjoys gaming, for a hobby. Julie says he has grown into a wonderful young man, and is becoming more independent every day.