Meet Greg and Julie Y.
Greg and Julie Y.
My hope is that my family and I can inspire other people to get involved and make a difference in whatever way they can. I believe in what we are doing and feel fortunate to be a part of it.
“Find a job you love doing, and you will never work a day in your life.” This age-old adage is certainly something to aspire to, but it’s not always that simple. Twenty-one-year-old Kaitlyn Yawitz is one of the lucky ones, able to turn her passion for crafting into a career thanks to her parents’ unwavering support.
Each morning she hops in the car with her mom, Julie, a former adolescent therapist and special events coordinator, to head over to their newly opened AR Workshop, a do-it-yourself craft studio that offers individual and group classes to create the latest on-trend designs on customizable decor accessories. Working alongside her mom also provides Kaitlyn, who was diagnosed with autism at age three, the opportunity to experience life in the workforce and take on more responsibilities as she navigates the transition into adulthood.
Seventeen years ago, Julie and her husband, Greg, weren’t sure what the future would hold for their daughter. Greg said Kaitlyn’s prognosis was bleak at the time, but he and his wife vowed to do everything in their power to provide both of their daughters the guidance and resources to reach their fullest potential. Today, Kaitlyn still faces significant challenges and needs around-the-clock care, but she’s consistently breaking barriers thanks to a multitude of services that began shortly after she was diagnosed and continue to this day. Their eldest daughter, Alyson, 23, is earning her doctorate in occupational therapy at Boston University and plans to one day positively impact the lives of people just like her sister.
“We are action people. The minute Kaitlyn was diagnosed, the wheels were in motion and we were figuring out all of the ways we could help,” said Greg, a real estate developer and owner of KEAT Properties, LLC. “The result was 40 hours per week of applied behavior analysis (ABA), occupational and physical therapies, developmental therapy and even music therapy. She also has severe food allergies, so that was another hurdle to clear. But we always had the mindset of doing whatever it takes to ensure she is living her life to the fullest.”
Greg and Julie are fortunate to have the resources to provide better lives for their children, but they recognize that not everyone is in the same situation. In order to aid Autism Speaks efforts to promote solutions, across the spectrum and throughout the life span, for the needs of people with autism and their families, the Yawitz Family planned for a future generous gift to the organization through a living trust.
“We wanted to lead by example and show other prospective donors that it’s a very simple thing to do if you are fortunate enough to be able to give back,” Greg said. “Planned gifts are so very important to non-profit organizations like Autism Speaks because they provide long-term stability in many ways and cost nothing upfront. You can make a big difference in the lives of so many people for years to come.”
As the board chair for the Autism Speaks St. Louis chapter, Greg also contributes his time and advocacy efforts to helping other families through the ups and downs of their autism journeys. He and his family have built tight-knit relationships with countless families through the years through the Autism Speaks Walk events, and they continue to fundraise and walk in support of “Kaitlyn’s Crew.”
“The best part of being on the board is directly helping the people who need it the most. If I’m able to provide information or send a family to our Autism Response Team for valuable resources or answers that I may not have, then I’m a happy to do so,” he added. “My hope is that my family and I can inspire other people to get involved and make a difference in whatever way they can. I believe in what we are doing and feel fortunate to be a part of it.”