“Betty Sharp the Love of Jesus,” by Dr. James R. Wining

In 2011 Mrs. Betty Sharp of Lee’s Summit affectionately called “Miss Betty,”approached me about her vision to start a non-profit for families with autistic children (later the non-profit was expanded to include children with special needs). Her objective was to have events during the year especially designed for those families with autistic children. These children were usually unable socially to attend an event or who were inadvertently excluded from an event such as a Christmas party, Halloween Party or water park activity. Her mission was to offer these families during the year events that welcomed them and were safe for their children. I was honored to form Autism Outreach Fellowship for her.

Since that time we have had annual events such as Christmas with Santa, Halloween Pumpkin Parties, Winter Swimming/Water park Events, Basketball Night Events and many other activities which have served hundreds of people. Children have enjoyed activities, presents and food. Moreover, many parents/guardians have received gifts cards to ease the challenge of providing for a family with a special needs and/or autistic member. This is all do to the vision of “Miss Betty.”

This past December 7th Christmas with our Santa Event at Unity Village was for me the true awakening of exactly what the mission and vision was for Miss Betty. As I did my annual announcing of the winners of our raffles including gifts and gifts cards an awkward event occured. I called out the winning number for a stuffed animal and no one stepped forward to claim the gift. After a few moments a young child with special needs approached me with her parents. She had so hoped her ticket number matched the winning number. Her entire time at the Santa Party had been focused on this special stuffed toy. Regretfully, I turned to the child and her parents and informed them the ticket was in fact, two numbers off.

They left the presentation area and thanked us profusely for the party and all the special attention. In the meantime no one came forward to claim the stuffed animal. My wife turned to me and said, ” No one is claiming it, make an exception and give it to her.” Miss Betty said, “This was what we are all about in making exceptions for exceptional children, do it!” I ran out the door with the stuffed animal under my arm and caught up with the young child and her parents. I apologised for the misunderstanding and to the tearing young child said “this is your stuffed animal.” It was a moment of joy, compassion and yes, love.

I have never been Mrs. Betty Sharp’s Pastor or Bishop. We have always been good friends. I have always been her student. She has taught me the love of Jesus and how our actions show his love in what we do.