During his freshman year at Arkansas Tech University in Russellville, Jacob Moellers, 22, began volunteering at ACTS Jr., a program through Pediatrics Plus in Russellville that brings youth with disabilities together to create a play each semester.
He met Justin, a teen who has a developmental disability, and they developed a fast friendship. Early on, Justin shared with Moellers, “You’re my best friend.”
“I almost melted and cried right there,” he said and is now accustomed to his bestie’s “bear hugs.” “He’s just so sweet.”
Moellers, who graduated in August and hopes for a career in geographic information system mapping, has a heart for people with disabilities. The middle of three children, his older brother, Jonathan, 24, has autism. Moellers said he’s vocal about breaking the myth that “they’re not very smart.”
“My brother is way smarter than I am,” he said. “He could tell you anything that happened on any day of the year. … And all these kids have something like that. They’re so much smarter at certain things. It just hurts when you see people treating them poorly because they’re just so special.”
Building upon the faith foundation from growing up at Sacred Heart Church in Morrilton, he has been active at St. Leo the Great University Parish in Russellville.
“It really grew (my faith) because I met a lot of good people,” he said, including the late Father Ernie Hardesty, who died from pancreatic cancer July 10.
“He was so instrumental with my family. He was with my mom and dad at AState and with me here. What I remember most about him was he was always smiling, he was always laughing at something,” he said. “... He always had such joy in his life and I guess I kind of wanted that for myself.”
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