In 2017, Merkel Police Department's Chief, Phillip Conklin, started a fundraiser to accomplish two things. First, to raise community awareness of Autism while lessening the stigma that has long been associated with the disorder. Second, to raise funds for the Merkel Independent School District's Special Needs Programs.
When Phillip married his wife, Deana McCollum, both had children from previous marriages. Deana's oldest son, Taylor, was diagnosed at an early age with Autism. Phillip made it a point to break down barriers and create a close bond with Taylor; starting a relationship that continues today. It is because of this relationship, and Phillip's own thrust into reality with Autism, that he wanted to raise awareness and open people up to realizing that Autism is not anything to be afraid of; especially working in law enforcement. Officers and citizens alike need to be aware of what Autism really is and, more importantly, what it is not.
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