by Kaitlin Roberts

DAVIDSON – Inspired by a school unit on heroes, Tyler Setzer, a first-grader at the Community School of Davidson, is beading and selling bracelets to raise money for Beading to Beat Autism.

The national foundation was started by Michala Riggle, a 13-year-old Kentucky girl whose brother has autism. In 2006, Michala’s brother was one of the first patients to receive a new intravenous infusion. Michala started Beading to Beat Autism to raise money so more children could receive this treatment.

Like Michala, Tyler also has a younger brother, Reid, with autism. During the study unit on heroes, students learned how Olympic sprinter Wilma Rudolph and former first lady Eleanor Roosevelt advocated for people with disabilities.

“This was an ah-ha moment for Tyler,” said Lisa Humphries, Tyler’s kindergarten and first-grade teacher.

‘I really want to help Reid,” said Tyler, who has become a local hero by teaching classmates about autism and contributing to Michala’s project.

In just two weeks, Tyler and her classmates raised more than $200. Tyler’s mom, Tara Setzer, has also organized beading parties with friends and neighbors to help Tyler reach her goal of $500.

While there are many ways to give, Tyler’s project is unique because beading parties create a space for people to talk about autism, a disability many do not understand.

“When we make the bracelets, friends get to see Reid. They might have been frightened of him before, but they see that he’s just a typical kid,” Setzer said.

Giving a bracelet can also be a way to offer support.

“People don’t know what to say when a child is diagnosed (with autism),” Setzer said. “This is an easy way to reach out and show someone you are thinking of them.”

The project has not only helped Tyler and her classmates learn about autism and raise money for the foundation, but it has also helped Tyler realize her ability to make a difference.

“In kindergarten, we were trying to get Tyler to advocate for herself when she needed something,” Humphries said. “Over the last two years, she has gone from quiet and shy to an ‘I can do it’ kid who is helping others.”

Bracelets cost $3 and all of the proceeds go to the Michala Riggle Beat Autism Foundation. You can buy a bracelet in the main lobby of the Community School of Davidson. Tyler’s uncle and aunt, Gregg and Monica Setzer, will also be selling bracelets at their store, Porches and Yards, next to The Fresh Market in Cornelius.

Want to get involved?

Contact the Michala Riggle Beat Autism Foundation, and she will send you a bracelet kit so you can begin beading and selling bracelets to support the foundation. For more information, call 502-618-1792 or email info@beadingtobeat