MPW.69 / 2017 Nurtured with Love: The Sweet Life of Maxwell Vernon by Erin Lefevre
Photographer
Story Summary

Maxwell Vernon is a 14-year-old freshman at Eldon High School who lives with celiac disease and Down syndrome. Out of the 1,875 students in the Eldon school district, 200 students receive special education services. Eldon’s Director of Special Education services Aaron Berendzen says the school’s goal is to provide each special needs student with the “typical school experience” and to help make them “independent and employable.” When Maxwell is not receiving individualized education at school, he works at the Maple Street Café, which is owned by his parents Trish and Chuck. Throughout my time with Maxwell, I witnessed the unconditional love that is the foundation of the Vernon family. Having a child with special needs impacts not only the child, but also the lives of everyone in the family. Through the support of the Eldon community and the unwavering dedication of his parents, Maxwell has become a confident, thoughtful, and happy teenager. He proves that a disability is a part of a person’s identity but it does not define who they are.