CJ Bearfield was four years old when he had the chance to leave an abusive and neglectful situation and be adopted by a wonderful family in Chattanooga, Tennessee, who truly loves and cares for him. Since then, his new family has been working hard to help him have the best life possible, even though he has been diagnosed with nonverbal autism.
In an effort to keep CJ safe and comfortable since his diagnosis, his parents, Stacey and William Bearfield, have gotten him a special comforting chair that hugs him from the sides, a bed that keeps him from wandering out of the house at night, and a variety of other toys and tools meant to help him cope with life in a neurotypical world. They even have a CNA that stay with CJ while his parents are at work.
Most of the time, CJ doesn’t show much emotion. His parents don’t mind, and they care for him and treat him just the same as they would any child, but when they can get a little bit of positive emotion out of him, they understandably want to make it last.
“He had such a rough start in life. The rest of his life will be the best I can make it,” says Stacy.
Recently, CJ got a chance to meet his favorite character, Mickey Mouse, during a family trip to Cherokee Caverns. CJ’s dad recorded a video of the event, showing the now 12-year-old boy smiling, laughing, and dancing along with Mickey.
“You hardly ever hear him have a really good belly laugh,” says Stacy. “There’s not a lot of emotion, so when we get it it’s worth every minute of it.”
CJ’s reaction to Mickey made the Bearfields realize they needed to do everything they could to make sure CJ met his mousey friend again. So they began planning a family trip to Disney World in Orlando. There, they hope to find a little of the happiness they see so rarely in CJ.
However, the family isn’t currently able to afford the trip on their own, and they worry that waiting too long to go on the trip might mean CJ will lose interest before they make it to Mickey.
So they’re asking for help to make it to Disney so that CJ can enjoy a little more time with Mickey. They’ve started a GoFundMe account and are hoping to earn $5,000 for the trip to the happiest place on Earth. So far, they’ve raised over $1,500, but they have a long way to go. Stacy says she’s willing to do everything she can, right down to selling cookies in her yard and taking out a personal loan.
Watch the video below to learn more about CJ’s story.
Elizabeth Nelson is a wordsmith, an alumna of Aquinas College in Grand Rapids, a four-leaf-clover finder, and a grammar connoisseur. She has lived in west Michigan since age four but loves to travel to new (and old) places. In her free time, she. . . wait, what’s free time?