If Julia Smith had one message for kids, it would be this: Be
kind to other kids.
"I think we each need to learn what's special about each other,
and we need to understand what other people are going through,"
says the 11-year-old Elk Grove Village girl, who has turned a
simple summer craft project into a way to help kids with special
How to Help
Want a pin? Julia is selling them online at www.jtmdesigns.com. You can
also order one through email at [email protected].
When Julia started making pins out of puzzle pieces two summers
ago, she says her mom, Sally, thought the project was really cute.
But as Julia did more research on the Internet about the puzzle
piece, she discovered its significance as a symbol of autism
awareness and decided she wanted to help.
Though she didn't know anyone with autism before then, she has
since raised thousands of dollars for autism research and
volunteers her time with children with special needs. Her work for
autism caught the attention of the National Autism Foundation and
the Kohl's Kids Who Care Scholarship Program, along with a
congressman, her village board and community groups
Her pins, shaped like Christmas trees the first two years, sold
quickly, raising $2,700. This year, she hopes to raise $3,000. She
unveiled her new design at a recent village board meeting-a heart
shaped from the puzzle pieces that she can now sell all year
She spent time this summer at the PIFFA (Pay It Forward for
Autism) annual fun camp helping kids with autism and their siblings
play sports, enjoy music, learn socialization skills and have fun
together and with others. She also volunteers weekends at the
Clearbrook respite program for kids with special needs and their
Her mom says Julia has always wanted to give to others since she
was a little girl.
"We're just so proud of her," Sally Smith says. "She is a very
bright girl who likes to do the right thing and makes a lot of good
Julia says the kids at her school, Quest Academy in Palatine,
like her pins. "They think I'm doing an awesome thing."
"I feel really good," she says about helping kids with autism
and other special needs. "I really like talking to them,
understanding what they are going through."
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