Although Adrian Wood had already sent her three oldest children off to White Oak Elementary School in Edenton, North Carolina, she was anxious when it was her youngest son’s turn to start classes.
Amos, who is now 7 years old, has autism and was completely nonverbal when he went to school.
“Sending three typical kids to school — you’re sad, but you’re excited for them,” Adrian told Today. “Sending Amos to school was such a different path. He was 3 when he started school. He was in diapers and he didn’t speak.”
Amos struggled to make friends and fit in, but there was always one person there who was overjoyed to see him. Custodian Raymond Brown has worked at the school for the past 15 years. All of the students know and love him, and he’s truly a friend to all. He started calling Adrian’s son “Famous Amos” on day one. To the mom’s surprise, Amos quickly began responding with a cheerful, “Hey, Brown,” whenever he saw him.
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“He wasn’t even saying ‘daddy’ at that point, so it was really something,” Adrian recalled.
Not only that, but Mr. Brown’s acceptance also showed the other kids the way to behave.
“Amos is a hard friend to have,” Adrian explained. “He takes a lot more than he gives and that’s tough for children. But those kids saw that he was popular and loved, and they started fighting over who would get to hold Amos’ hand on the way to the classroom. It meant so much to me for him to be so favored by the other children at school, and Mr. Brown had a big hand in that.”
About a year ago, school officials nominated Mr. Brown for North Carolina’s School Hero, a prize issued by the North Carolina Education Lottery. The prize is $10,000 for the school, plus another $10,000 for the recipient. Mr. Brown received more than 70,000 votes — 20,000 more than any other nominee in the state! So when the results came out and he didn’t win, Adrian was heartbroken.
“I cried when I heard the news,” she wrote on Facebook. “I’m not much of a crier, at least over losing a contest.”
Adrian couldn’t let the disappointing results stand, so she took to Facebook to rally her community. Soon, she had devised a plan to create an annual “Famous Amos” prize for an unsung hero in their community. Her neighbors answered the call, donating $35,000 in just one week!
Townspeople and school officials gathered in March to celebrate Mr. Brown and give him the money they’d raised. He was told that he was showing up for a photo shoot for his 38th wedding anniversary, so he dressed to the nines in a tuxedo!
Instead, Principal Michelle Newsome handed him a giant check and thanked him for everything he does to help kids like Amos find their way.
“Mr. Brown is really, truly so deserving of all of this and then some,” she said. “He’s our rock steady fella here at White Oak… he’s just a gem and we are so lucky to have him here. There isn’t a child in this building that doesn’t know who Mr. Brown is and that Mr. Brown cares for them and loves them.”
Mr. Brown says he was “very surprised” by the event, but he couldn’t be more grateful for the recognition. He and his wife plan to use the money to visit their family and do some work on their house.
What a wonderful way to thank an everyday hero! Share this story to remind your friends that there is always good in the world.
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