John Maucher stands with his two sisters, Erika and Carli (bottom) as he speaks to fellow students at Northwest Valley Junior High School. Maucher and his older brother, Spencer, got more than 900 students to sign a "no bully" banner, committing to treating people with Down syndrome with greater respect and compassion.
John Maucher, brother of two sisters with Down syndrome, Erika and Carli, is a protecting, loving, and caring brother. Last summer he was pushed to the limit of being teased about his sister Erika, and tired of hearing Erika teased. He stepped up and took action. John didn’t use his fist, he didn’t even use hateful words, he used kindness, love, and his Christian ways to turn a negative situation into a positive one.
He talked to his parents, Stefanie and Roger Maucher about an idea to educate his peers and take his story and his fight for awareness to the entire Northwest School district. His idea was quite profound for a 13 year old boy. He had it all planned out, and he even knew who he needed help from.
He reached out to his school administration, the high school, his parents, his older brother, and finally the Pujols Family Foundation for support. John’s idea was to educate for awareness through addressing the entire student body at Northwest Valley, write articles for the Valley Voice Newsletter, the high school newspaper, the Northwest District newsletter, and have a contest for both the seventh and eighth grade to give students and incentive to get involved and live good disability character awareness daily by offering an autographed Albert Pujols picture for two separate contests. He wanted it to be a way of life for his peers and not a choice!
In the month of November, John and his older brother Spencer (17) addressed both the 7th and 8th grade student body. After the student body viewed a video on bullying, both of the boys talked to their peers about what Down syndrome is, how it hurts when their sisters are made fun of, and focused on how alike their sisters are to them instead of their differences. The results…over 900 students signed a “no bully” banner, and the boys were answering questions for over 30 minutes. It was a true sign that their peers cared and wanted to be informed.
As the school year came to a close, John decided on his final activity for the eighth grade. He was given a book “I Just Am” for Christmas. The book was written by a young man with Down syndrome. He wanted the eighth grade student body to read the book and then write an essay. The essays were narrowed down and presented to Pujols Family Foundation CEO and Executive Director, Todd Perry. Todd read the essays, and with the help of John, and Jen Cooper, selected a winner. Courtney Gray constructed a beautiful essay on her experience with a friend who had Down syndrome. The essence of her essay was about acceptance. Her essay was selected as the second semester winner for the autographed Albert Pujols picture. Courtney is pictured with her sister, John Maucher, Erika Maucher, and Carli Maucher.
John’s awareness program has attracted much attention. His articles have been ran in numerous newsletters, include the Learning Disability Association of Missouri, and Special Olympics will be using his articles in their National Campaign to “Eliminate the “R” word”. The Northwest school district is seeking to begin this program in the 5th and 6th grade centers next year as well.
When John began this program he was interviewed by the Suburban Journal and was asked what he wanted as an outcome. John said, “"I want people to stop using the word 'retard,' because it's offensive to me and my sisters," John said. "The other outcome I would like is for people to take time and not judge them by what they look like and also get to know how cool they are." Everyone involved in this program would agree not only did John meet his goal; he gained confidence in himself, grew as a brother and a peer to his friends, and has become an ambassador and voice for children with special needs in and around his school district.
Stefanie and Roger Maucher agree that sometimes as parents, they focus on protecting their girls, and forget how their other children are affected. Stefanie says, “I am proud of John for standing up and being a voice for not only our girls, but other children with special needs as well. His sisters have made him who he is and his love, spirit, compassion, and Christian ways have shined through to have a positive impact on many people this year. We are excited to see what next year holds for John, Spencer and their sisters. We are in this educational adventure together; we stand together as a family and support each other when needed. The support of the Pujols Family Foundation was a vital part of this program's success.”