Sunday, March 11, 2001

Volunteer hailed as special-ed hero


School's students, staff grateful fpr 11 years of service

By Allen Howard
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Mick Brown, a retired pharmacist, was showered with gifts and praise last week for his 60th birthday by students who could show their special thanks only with smiles and recorded messages.

        Mr. Brown, of Greenhills has volunteered for 11 years at the Bobbie B. Fairfax School for students with mental retardation and developmental disabilities in Madisonville.

[photo] Mick Brown laughs at his surprise 60th birthday party, given to him by grateful children and staff members at Bobbie B. Fairfax School.
(Steven M. Herppich photo)
| ZOOM |
        The 134 students at the school, from preschoolers to seniors, took turns expressing their appreciation to Mr. Brown, who makes special equipment for them.

        As many of them were wheeled up front on carts, rollers or special chairs that Mr. Brown made, they managed to smile and played recorded messages.

        “You are worth a million dollars and a bag of Grippos,” one message said.

        Principal Scott Rankin declared Wednesday as Mick Brown Day at the school. He presented Mr. Brown with a proclamation and said, “This entitles you to have a birthday here each year on this date.”

        In 11 years, Mr. Brown became an icon at the school, balancing three days a week of volunteer work at the school with his job as a pharmacist at Walgreens.

        As a volunteer, he became an integral part of the staff, detecting problems students had getting around or being comfortable.

        “I took a look at what was needed, and if the school could not afford it in its budget, I made it,” Mr. Brown said. “I have a shop by my house and just put together equipment, mostly support stuff.”

        Not only did he provide special services to the students, but he added something special to the staff.

        “He is an inspiration in the area of service,” said Stephanie Downs, an art teacher. “We do this and get paid for it, but he does it free because he cares. We always have a desperate need for volunteers.”

        Amazing is the word used to describe Mr. Brown by Jerome Hawthorne, a behavior support specialist. “For a person to come in and fit into this kind of work and take an active part with the students requires a special talent,” Mr. Hawthorne said.

        It all started with a challenge from a neighbor, Mr. Brown said. He said his neighbor, Judy Burch, who worked a Breyer School in Bevis, challenged him to go to one of the special education schools.

        “I went and I became hooked,” Mr. Brown said.

        Standing by his wife, Georgia, he said: “If I had known 30 years ago what I know now about these schools, I would not have become a pharmacist. I would have been a special education teacher.”

        The ceremonies closed Wednesday with several of the students standing around Mr. Brown and signing the song “You Are the Wind Beneath My Wings.”

       



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