Renee and David Kaufer know what it means to work hard. David is a marketing and branding expert with his own consulting firm, Kaufer DMC, and Renee is the Senior Operations Manager for Africa at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation managing offices in Ethiopia, Nigeria, and South Africa. They also have twin 11 year old sons, one of whom is on the autism spectrum.
Renee recently marked her 10 year anniversary at the Gates Foundation with a generous bestowal of $10,000 to Washington Autism Alliance & Advocacy (WAAA). This donation will be accompanied by a triple-match from the Foundation. “WAAA is a tremendous organization that offers those of us touched by autism a wealth of knowledge and resources that families otherwise don’t have as we make our way through unchartered waters,” remarks Renee.
Special needs parenting is a challenge in and of itself, and that challenge is compounded by two working parents with demanding jobs. Renee points out that work travel must be carefully planned and daily schedules must be flexible to ensure constant supervision and to be with their son for in-home and office therapies. Because a parent needs to be home every night, the Kaufers have not taken a vacation away from their sons in over nine years, instead splitting for separate vacations so they can each recharge. Renee comments, “we make it work because we have to and we do it because we love him with all our hearts. We do everything we can to support him every single day.”
Renee points out, “I wish people understood the day to day challenges for families raising a child on the spectrum. From lack of sleep, to constant supervision, to not knowing how to help when he cries, to fighting with the public school system just so he gets a basic education is very taxing on a family and it takes its toll quickly, both physically and mentally.”
There are joys as well. The Kaufers say their son Stone is their hero and love watching him grow and make great progress through constant in-home and office therapy interventions. The family delights in outings to the town of Charleston on the Oregon coast where they hike, swim, explore, play on the beach, and simply enjoy spending time together.
“WAAA has been such a tremendous resource as we navigate, what for us is, unchartered territory,” remarks Renee. “From battling the public school system to working with insurance companies, WAAA always has answers for us and is incredibly helpful. Choosing WAAA as the donation from my employer was an easy one.”