Christopher Duffley, a blind teen with autism, inspired Wadena-Deer Creek students with his voice and message last week.
Duffley shared his incredible life story with WDC students in grades K-4 and 7-8, as well as performed songs that showcased his amazing talents as a singer at Wadena Memorial Auditorium on April 7. He said music is an important part of his life.
"Singing is a gift that I share. Because I'm blind, I see people with my heart for who they truly are instead of what they look like on the outside," Duffley said.
Duffley was born prematurely and weighed just 1 lb, 12 oz. Fifteen years later, this New Hampshire teenager is doing more than surviving with his diagnosis. He is thriving and inspiring others as he speaks at schools and churches around the country.
He has performed all across the country, but some of the highlights include performing during Pope Francis' trip to Philadelphia in 2015, singing the National Anthem at a Boston Red Sox game at Fenway and performing at a NASCAR race.
Duffley's message applies to all age groups, but the message he likes to share with youth is about bullying. He said he wants everyone to know that it's all right to be different and to look for the good in one another.
"My parting words to you is this: I want you to remember to open up your hearts. Don't be afraid to use your gifts or superpowers to be a good friend and to use your voice to not only advocate for yourself but to encourage one another," Duffley told students.
Fay Pary, WDC Elementary special education teacher, and Jill and Derek Dilly of Kids of Valor, worked together to bring Duffley to WDC Elementary. The United Church of Christ's Lamson Trust of Wadena, Deer Creek Lions and WDC Schools helped fund Duffley's visit.
Pary said Duffley's message for students was to also broaden their understanding of autism from awareness to appreciation. April is National Autism Awareness Month.