HEBRON ESTATES - How many 15-year-olds wish they had a few extra bucks in their pockets.
How many of those 15-year-olds would give that money to their little brothers?
And how many 12-year-olds with autism have been the inspiration to raise more than half a million dollars.
Students at Hebron and Zoneton Middle Schools had the pleasure to meet Michaela Riggle, the 15-year-old responsible for founding the Michaela Riggle Beat Autism Foundation.
Don't let the age fool you; Michaela is not only business-savvy, she's helped with design plans for her ultimate goal, a facility that hosts autism treatment research along with a special school for autistic students.
Michaela's inspiration is her younger brother, Evan, who is 12. He was first diagnosed with autism at age 7.
Michaela told a story about Evan's diagnosis, which included treatment at Kosair Children's Hospital that cost $200,000.
The 10-year-old pulled out all of her money at the time, a grand total of seven dollars and 35 cents.
"I gave that, and then I told them I would get the rest of it," she recalled.
True to her word, in just six months Michaela raised that total and more. Once she was able to help Evan, her next goal was to assist everyone else dealing with autism on a daily basis, just as her family has.
"We've had to put locks on our drawers at home, and we can't go out to the movies," Michaela told the students.
Michaela's next goal is creating the "We Believe!" International Autism and Research Treatment Center. Launched in 2011, the new fundraising campaign includes a board of directors to help Michaela's goal come to fruition.
Raising more than half a million dollars over the past four years, Michaela said the organization's first step was acquiring land for the center, which could cost up to five million.
"I hope to keep it in the Louisville area, or maybe in southern Indiana," she said. "The plan is to raise all the money in chunks. The land is our first step."
Michaela's primary fundraiser is based on her original fundraising idea: making bead bracelets to sell for donation purposes. Asked by a student how she came up with the idea, she admitted her own surprise.
"That idea just came from God," she said. "That didn't come from me. I liked the outdoors, I wasn't into crafts."
Inspired by her persistence, Michaela's family and friends began helping by making more bracelets.
"My parents work hard, too," she said. "It's gonna pay off in the long run, that's what keeps us going."
Eventually others assisted, forming an informal charitable posse now referred to as "Michaela's Peeps."
"We've had people create bracelets from as far away as Australia and Germany," she said.
A "Peep" logo was designed for the program, a smiling face and crossed arms with bracelets on them. The Peep design was incorporated into the design of the autism center.
"It looks like a Peep from the sky," Michaela said. "There will be lights on it where the bracelets are that will shine."
Michaela's inspirational story is truly a global phenomenon. She has been featured on national television, appearing on "Good Morning America" and "The Ellen Show" to tell her story.
One of her new global Peeps is Miss World 2011 Alexandria Mills, a Bullitt County resident and former Hebron Middle student. Mills attended Michaela's speech at the school to offer her support.
"People say it's awe-inspiring to meet someone who is considered a celebrity, but I was in awe when I talked to Michaela," Mills said.
Miss World was among the many bracelet purchasers at Hebron. Eighth grade student Chris Dickerson offered both money and a hug for Michaela, letting her know he appreciated her efforts.
"I helped a neighbor with cancer before, so I know what it's like," he said, "She seems like she needs (the money) more than me. If I had more I'd give it to her."
Michaela spread her positive message to Dickerson and the other Hebron and Zoneton students, keeping her message simple: "You gotta believe!"
"I started at age 10, and now look at how many people are in this room," she said. "You can all help in some way, shape or form. You can do anything as long as you believe in yourself."
Michaela's appearances were sponsored by the Hebron and Zoneton Youth Service Centers.
For more information on Michaela's story and her Beading to Beat Autism campaign, or to order bracelets and make a donation, visit www.beadingtobeatautism.org.