Meet Team Easton
A whole family on a mission to provide resources, education and assistance to the autism community
Meet Team Easton
All those tear-filled nights and lonely days. We’ve been there. And we know just how hard it can be. Because of this we will always answer the call and never let a single individual go without the love and help that they deserve.
When Easton Horne was diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder at the age of 18 months in 2007, his parents, Dustin and Mindy Horne, didn’t even know where to begin with the diagnosis journey.
But the whole family got to work in helping Easton succeed. As did the kindness of a stranger.
“We had an individual in our lives give us an iPad one day. And that iPad really opened up Easton’s communication. And that simple act of kindness affected us and was a profound experience in our lives,” says Dustin.
Fast forward to April 2022, and the Horne family wanted to give back to other families on the autism journey as well. The Team Easton Foundation was born.
Easton is the youngest of 5 children, and all his siblings and his parents are involved in the foundation. One sister manages social media, and another brother helps with fundraisers.
Dustin says, “We have quickly learned that there is an innate truth in the quote, ‘If you wish to go fast - go alone, if you wish to go far - go together.’”
Mindy says while a big focus of the foundation is AAC devices, since Easton is nonverbal and the device helped him to communicate, families seeking help can get other supports beyond an AAC device.
“We've been able to give out AAC devices and been able to give out service dogs and mats for in rooms. And we've been able to do specialized things for individuals that reach out to us that maybe we wouldn't have even thought about because these kids on the spectrum are all so different. Our passion is just to make anybody that has a child or family affected with autism, their life just a little easier. If we can help in any way by the donations that we get from this foundation, that is our goal.”
We caught up with Dustin (President of Team Easton Foundation) and Mindy Horne to learn more about the foundation.
Why did you start the foundation?
When Easton was first diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder at the age of 18 months, we honestly had no idea what this diagnosis entailed. Even after extensive research and consultations with varying physicians and specialists, there just did not seem to be any quick or easy answers to what he was dealing with. And as Easton grew older, the amount of challenges we faced continued to grow and grow to the point where we felt helpless at times. However, over these past 18 years, we have been so very blessed to have a special group of individuals who have played a critical role in helping Easton live the most fulfilling life he possibly can.
We could not be where we are today without his team that helped get him here, and it is our mission at the Team Easton Foundation to make sure every single child and family affected by autism spectrum disorder has a team in their corner.
To know that we will stand up for the voiceless and provide all of the knowledge, experiences, and resources possible to give each child the life that they truly deserve.
If you could tell the world one thing about the autism community, what would it be and why?
If I could speak on behalf of all of us involved in serving the autism community, it would be that these kids and their families are hands down some of the strongest individuals you will ever meet.
This strength has been built over years and years of long days and hard nights – most of which are experienced in silence by these families. On each of the iPads we have been able to donate, we put an engraving that states “Never Give Up”.
This is what we have to remind ourselves each and every day… Never Give Up! You are making a difference by being an advocate for your loved one.
What advice do you have for people when they interact with someone that might use an AAC device or are non-verbal?
Interacting with people who are nonverbal or use an AAC device can be an uncomfortable or even daunting task for those who have never been placed in such a situation. The most important thing to realize is that these individuals deserve their voice to be heard, no matter what it may sound like. They have worked so hard and put in hours and hours of time with certified professionals to be able to use these devices, which has become an extension of themselves. I would plead for each of us to practice patience during these interactions.
Let everyone utilize their skillset to the best of their abilities and acknowledge just how special their voice is even though it may be different from ours.
At the Team Easton Foundation, we strive to exemplify our motto of “Love needs no words” in everything we do, and we can’t think of a better way to accomplish this than by providing AAC devices for all those in need. We will do everything we can to make sure no voice ever goes unheard.
Since we established the Team Easton Foundation in April 2022, we have been able to utilize the generous donations of so many members to give so many struggling children a voice by providing AAC devices to families who cannot afford them.
Because we are newer and still growing, we have often faced the inability to fulfill requests due to a lack of capital from donations. As we move forward, we will continue to expand and grow to our best ability to fulfill each of these requests. It is our mission to never let a single child ever be without a voice.
We call this series “community ally.” What does being an autism ally mean to you?
I love the connotation behind the word “ally.” An ally is there for you when you need them the most. And they are there for you whenever they are called. You pick up the phone, and an ally will never miss it.
As an autism ally, we at the Team Easton Foundation will always be there for this special community. So much of what our members are going through, we have experienced ourselves over the course of Easton’s life. Because of this, we know just how important it is to have someone there for you when your world is seemingly falling apart. All those tear-filled nights and lonely days. We have been there. And we know just how hard it can be. Because of this, we will always answer the call and never let a single individual go without the love and help that they deserve.
If you could design the iPad or communication device of the future, what features would it have?
Mindy Horne (Easton’s mom): If they could find something that would not break. We have been through so many iPads even with the best coverage. So, an unbreakable iPad.
Dustin Horne: I think that is a perfect answer. If you can make something indestructible, that's the key because we've gone through so many iPads.
Learn more about Team Easton foundation.