Power to marvel at: Student’s legacy lives on after passing


Photo Courtesy of: H.E.A.L Foundation

NCHS graduate Jon Miskulin worked to spread the idea of accepting and celebrating individual’s differences throughout Central Illinois.

Standing in front of an elementary class, Jon Miskulin could be heard saying “You know everyone has a superpower and mine is music” before asking students “what is yours?”

Miskulin believed that “everyone has unique qualities and special abilities” just like the superheroes he grew up loving. He used this love of superheroes as the backbone of the Heroes Embracing Autistic Lives (H.E.A.L) Foundation, which he began at the age of fourteen.

Even after his death in 2013, Miskulin is still able to share his true superpower through his story. His power was not just music but his ability to bring awareness and acceptance to autism.

“I know that I can’t cure autism,” Miskulin once commented, “but I can choose to share my life with others and help them to embrace those living with [autism].”

In recognition of April as Autism Awareness month and of NCHS graduate Jon Miskulin, all Unit 5 schools are working to raise money for the Unit 5 Educational Foundation to fund projects for special education classes district-wide. The schools are selling puzzle pieces, the symbol of autism awareness, that students can write their names on to be displayed around the school.

In first grade, Miskulin was diagnosed with autism. The foundation was created to encourage those with autism to embrace their superpowers, to celebrate the things that made them not fit in as things that made them outstanding.

In eighth grade, Miskulin developed a love for playing music when he joined the guitar club at Kingsley Junior High School. He had never learned how to read or write music, but soon discovered he was able to listen to any song and play it back. Despite the auditory processing issues associated with Autism, Jon had an uncanny ability to play by ear.

While attending Normal Community High School, Miskulin began his storytelling. He joined the Digital Media club –  creating videos that were played at school assemblies and entered contests where his work was shown at the Normal Theater.

His goal was to become a cinematographer and create documentaries on autism. Miskulin had been accepted into the Tribeca Film Institute in New York which he planned to attend before his passing.

While Jon was unable to tell his story personally, his family continues to; they speak at churches, schools and businesses just as he did.

The mission of the foundation Geralyn Miskulin, Jon’s mom, said is “sharing his story and seeking acceptance for all persons on the spectrum.”  

Before Jon passed, his parents and siblings made a promise that in his absence, they would be his voice and share his power.

“We could not tell his story because we didn’t have autism,” Geralyn Miskulin said. “But we could tell the story of what it was like to raise a child with autism. A year after his death, we held our first annual Hero Awards. We selected twenty people that we felt has changed his life, that each one of them did something for him that made his life remarkable.”

As the Miskulin family hosted the Hero Awards, they realized that they wanted to do more for the families of autism. The result was the creation of Be a Hero Day.

This year, the event was held on Saturday, April 6 at the Illinois State University Alumni Center preceding the Hero Awards. The event featured superhero character appearances, a balloon artist, face painting and carnival games.  

“We created this day for them because a lot of parents with children on the spectrum don’t get out,” Geralyn Miskulin said. “They don’t have the advantage of going to places where everybody else goes to without being stared at or treated with tremendous discrimination.”

The event advertised a sensory room’s availability and acceptance of therapy dogs – considerate of the other factors that might stand in the way of experiencing a day out.

The foundation, founded by Jon and carried on by his family, boasts the motto of “accepting the missing piece” –  they want every person on the spectrum to feel valued as who they are. Jon’s message spoke to that and events such as Be a Hero Day and the Hero Awards work to recognize that as well.


If you would like to support the H.E.A.L Foundation and support autism awareness at Normal Community – puzzle pieces can be purchased for $1 at the Greeter’s Station from Ms. Tana Sharp.

Visit jonsheroes.org to learn more about the H.E.A.L Foundation.