With the anniversary of September 11th right around the corner, Lubbock's Red Cross is honoring some very special heroes in the Hub City.
This hero's story begins, oddly enough, with a barrel of monkeys. When Karlie Watts was 3-years-old, hooking the monkeys together, she noticed one missing. Brenda Watts, her mother, said, "She was panicking. It's not here, it's not here, and she couldn't count at the time and when she got up she was sitting on one. And I knew then there was something very unique about Karlie."
From a young age Karlie showed great attention to detail. She doesn't like to lose things, wants her life to be orderly, and has trouble with some social behaviors. At age 19, doctors diagnosed her with Aspergers Syndrome, a form of Autism.
Despite these challenges, Karlie has always had a passion for children, especially those with disabilities. "I worked with handicapped kids, and I love those kids," said Watts.
When she was 14 years old she started volunteering to work with special needs children through the YWCA. "For Karlie, everybody is beautiful. She looks right in the heart of everybody, and so I believe that working with special needs kids, that she sees them as the same and just loves them," said Brenda Watts.
As she got older, Karlie continued to volunteer with a special needs swimming class. Twenty years after she missed one little red monkey, Karlie's gift of paying attention to detail payed off. She was swimming with the children when she noticed something wasn't right. One little boy was missing. "Brandon was flat on his back and I was by the steps, and I was missing him, and I thought maybe I'd lose him," said Karlie.
Karlie found him in the water, and quickly pulled him up so he could breathe. While living with Asperger's Syndrome has presented challenges for Karlie, it also makes her the person she is, and without her keen attention to detail, that day at the pool might have turned out very differently. "Recently a friend e-mailed me and said, Brenda, have you thought about changing Karlie's diet because they think that sometimes a change of diet can improve people on the Autism Spectrum. I thought, you know, of all the struggles we've been through, I kinda laughed and I said 'why would I want to change Karlie?'," said Brenda Watts.
A young girl who cared about each little monkey, grew up into a heroic young woman who took the time to care about each small child.
The Red Cross will honor Karlie Watts and other local heroes at a special champion's breakfast Thursday morning. The breakfast kicks off at 7:30 a.m. on September 11th, in the Civic Center Banquet Hall. The tickets are $25 a piece, and to reserve yours call the Red Cross Chapter Office at 765-8534.
|Lubbock Red Cross|