Story by Sara Paul
While reading her favorite book about some very sweet and sad orphans who needed a home, seven-year-old Rachel Powers became both inspired and certain that she was ready for another sibling. Her parents, Heidi and Kevin, were quick to join in her enthusiasm and soon the family was to begin an arduous three year adoption process, one that yielded a new younger brother for Rachel.
The oldest of four children, Rachel has always been the “nurturer” according to Mom. So, when four-year-old Max finally arrived and displayed some developmental delays, it was no surprise that Rachel quickly got to work. In order for Max to be comfortable and successful in his learning, processing and physical challenges, he required such therapeutic props as weighted lap pads and blankets. These soft yet heavy cushions are useful for individuals with sensory input issues. However, they can be quite expensive, with lap pads costing up to $80 and weighted blankets up to $200.
A seasoned young sewer and a devoted pupil at Sew-Cology, in Warwick, Rachel took matters into her own hands and began making Max’s necessary props in her at-home sewing nook. With rice, batting, colorful materials, and some complex equipment, this young entrepreneur has even started her own business, Max Potential. Her Sew-Cology mentor, Cindy Hopper, who generously bequeathed her serger machine to strengthen material edges, has been a “great resource and amazing person” in Rachel’s entrepreneurial journey.
Through Max Potential, individuals with special needs can access handmade crafted therapy items at a substantially lower cost. The small profits Rachel makes are all put towards her college fund. A recent triumph was not only her brother excelling at learning, but also a customer who let Rachel know that thanks to her unique blanket, a local child slept through the whole night for the first time ever. Reveling in that knowledge, Rachel is even more motivated and proud of the time she spends with her little brother on school work and recreation.
She remembers the hardships years ago when Max first arrived: “He didn’t like to be near anyone, so I gave him space for a while.”
Mackenlor “Max” Therane spent most of his infant and toddler years in an orphanage in a Kenscoff, Haiti crib. As an HIV positive baby, he was sick often and therefore did not enjoy socializing or the outdoors with the other children. When he arrived at his new Warwick home, he could barely walk, speak or even swallow solid food.
Now, taking three medications daily and a happy and healthy Powers family member, Max is “energetic, learning songs, running, laughing and singing all day,” according to Rachel.
“He can be annoying,” she chuckles at her brother’s newfound positive normality, “but we are happy because he is happy.”
The warm weather and blue skies find Rachel with Max and her other siblings Carolyn Grace, 10; Emily Faith, 8; and John Everett, 6, frolicking in their yard with their farm animal friends, about 30 chickens, three goats and a duck.
Warwick native and mom, Heidi, who looks on with both pride and humility, said, “I’m just so thankful to watch all of my children grow into such unique individuals and am blessed to share this journey together as a family.”
Her husband Kevin Powers, a health and physical education teacher at Washingtonville High School and the Youth Minister at their church, Calvary Baptist Church, is equally gleaming when he observes Rachel’s selflessness. “It’s great to watch Rachel get involved in something that serves others,” he said.
While Rachel’s extensive extracurricular activities extend to membership in Odyssey of the Mind and her church youth group, the preteen also plays guitar, violin, and piano.
It’s difficult for Rachel to ponder how and why she does so much for her brother and for other children with special needs, as it just comes naturally to this young heroine.
With pause and a bright smile, she musters this deep reflection: “It’s just kind of better to spend your time doing something that will make a difference and benefit others… instead of just eating a sundae.”
The Warwick Valley Dispatch would like to feature young people of Warwick who are doing meaningful things. Whether in school, athletics, in the community or at home, we know there are many moving stories that need to be told. These “hero” stories can be from the incredible to the mundane, from the kid who saved his dog from drowning to the teen who takes care of a sibling with special needs. We ask that if you know of any young individuals who would be appropriate for these human interest pieces, that you contact Sara Paul at firstname.lastname@example.org.