Help Keyeion Go To Peru!

Peru:  15 Day High Andes Community Project

My name is Melissa Ashley.  I am writing this letter to ask for your help in raising money for my son Keyeion to participate in the Peru:  15 Day High Andes Community Project with Smithsonian Student Adventures (SSA) in June 2018 (

The Beginning

My son Keyeion was born prematurely and weighed just 4 lbs and 6 oz. He was tiny and odd looking. I loved him beyond rhyme or reason and as he grew I didn't really notice anything out of the ordinary. He was my first child and truthfully, I wasn't looking for anything wrong in him.  As he reached school age and was enrolled in Pre-K 4, the teachers noticed he struggled with learning concepts and was socially withdrawn.  Thus began the journey of dealing with doctors, teachers, therapists, psychologist and the public school system.

The Highs and Lows

My husband and I suffered through horrible insensitive doctors who were not equipped to help my son.  “Your son is retarded and you're going to have to just accept it”. I was told that by a licensed psychologist about my son. A devastating thing to hear about your child and what kind of parent could accept hearing that about their child?  So with strong determination and faith, we never gave up and eventually we found a wonderful and kind professional psychologist that provided answers and guidance.  He explained that Keyeion has Pervasive Developmental Disorder not otherwise specified (PDD-NOS).  It is one of the four Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) and also one of the five disorders classified as a Pervasive Developmental Disorder (PDD). It felt good to finally have a diagnosis and be able to move forward to find the proper help for Keyeion.

Growth and Development

Soon after Keyeion was diagnosed, he was enrolled in Brookwood Christian School (BCS). A school for kids with learning disabilities and special needs. At BCS, my husband and I met wonderful dedicated teachers and staff who cared and had the knowledge, experience, and passion for helping kids with disabilities. Keyeion flourished academically and socially. He became actively engaged in school activities and even petitioned for the school’s first prom.  Keyeion is now a high school senior and a honor student. This past summer, he was able to participate in a 10-Day Surf and Service Program in Costa Rica with SSA. His time in Costa Rica helped him to overcome social challenges and experience another culture. (Read Keyeion’s essay at or BCS Facebook page).  

Future Goal

Keyeion would now like to participate in the Peru: 15 Day High Andes Community Project study abroad program. My goal is to raise $6,000 to cover the program cost, international flight, vaccines and fees. Keyeion is an amazing young man who is living his life to the fullest.  I would be so thankful for your help to make this trip possible for him.

Thank you!
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Melissa Bell-Ashley 
Powder Springs, GA