Rachael Steffens and Autumn Michaels aren’t your typical members of the high school band.
Rachael, who’s a senior, plays percussion, while Autumn, a freshman, plays the clarinet.
But without each other, this duo would have a much different high school experience.
That’s because Autumn is blind.
At just 7 months old, doctors discovered an inoperable brain tumor near Autumn’s optic nerves. With time, it grew. And when Autumn was only four years old, her parents, Jason and Angie Michaels, allowed doctors to remove their daughter’s optic nerves completely, along with additional parts of the tumor.
“Autumn, I’m sorry we have to do this,” Jason remembers telling his little girl. “You won’t be able to see.”
“It’s OK Daddy,” she responded. “God will see for me.”
Her response was just a prelude to the optimism and joy Autumn radiates today.
“She’s always had this amazing view of her world,” Angie says. “Everything is positive. It brings people to her, drags them in.”
Upon entering high school this year, Autumn, who has memorized the world around her, and uses a cane to navigate the school hallways, had hoped to play in the marching band.
While performing in the bleachers meant standing still with her clarinet in hand, performing the marching band routines at halftime on the football field proved to be a challenge for Autumn. The uneven grass, mixed with choreography she can’t see, meant Autumns dreams of marching in the band were out of reach.
That is—until Rachael Steffens came along. The 17-year-old percussionist was looking forward to her senior year in the band, when she unexpectedly met Autumn at band camp over the summer.
The two immediately became friends, and when the school year started, Rachael selflessly decided to become Autumn’s guide.
This meant forgoing her own last chance to march in the band, and instead being Autumn’s eyes where she can’t see.
It’s the kind of selflessness that is rare to find in adults, let alone a senior in high school. But according to Rachael’s mom, Amy Brown, it’s not rare if you know Rachael and Autumn.
“That’s exactly what Autumn would do,” Amy said. “It’s exactly the kind of thing Rachael would do. I think it’s probably why they clicked so well.”
Rachael still plays percussion in the stands with the band. But when the group takes to the field, she’s right there with Autumn. One hand on each of her shoulders, firmly guiding her every move in sync with their peers.
Rachael doesn’t see it as “giving up” her senior season in the band. She sees it as making the season memorable with her close friend.
“I’m still marching. I’m still on the field. I’m still with the band. I’m essentially doing the same thing I would be doing. I’m just doing that with Autumn.”
As for Autumn and her family, Angie says Rachael is giving them memories of their own.
“Rachael has kind of made our dreams come true.”
All the praise for these incredible friends! Their perspective and selflessness is completely inspiring.