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Kinglake volunteer kicking goals

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The North Central Review
The North Central Review
The North Central Review is an independently owned newspaper publishing company based in Kilmore that is responsible for publishing two community newspapers each week, covering communities within the Mitchell Shire

Kinglake volunteer Kirk Mercuri is kicking life goals, with hopes to publish a book this year about his experiences of living with a disability, specifically autism.

It all started when COVID hit, struggling as social restrictions threatened to isolate him.

The 24-year-old then went on collecting data and statistics about the pandemic, and wrote about how it affected him and his small community.

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“There wasn’t much else to do at that time, so this was a good way to keep myself busy,” Mr Mercuri said.

Fast forward a couple of years, Mr Mercuri has found a local author who is helping him to publish his book.

“It is about my life as an adult with autism. There’s some chapters about when I went to school, and how I think about things, and then it talks about how I felt during COVID and how it affected me and Kinglake as a community,” he said.

Mr Mercuri was diagnosed with autism at the age of 2 and a half, after his mother Maryanne noticed he wasn’t reaching milestones like his twin brother.

Once diagnosed, Mr Mercuri received early intervention through a special development school for four years before attending mainstream primary and secondary school with a fully-funded full-time aid.

In 2019, Mr Mercuri accessed the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) before linking with Intereach and local area coordinator Richelle Black in 2021.

“We connected Kirk with supports around the Kinglake area, and he has been working with a support worker on a regular basis to access his community and make connections in his community, which he has been doing so well,” Ms Black said.

“He also receives funding for weekly skill development to build on his independence, and works on skills such as cooking and budgeting.”

Described as a highly creative, kind-hearted, and enthusiastic person who consistently goes out of his way to be helpful to others, Mr Mercuri volunteers for his local basketball and football clubs, including Kinglake Ranges Opportunity Shop, Kinglake Library, BMX Bicycle Group, and Neighbourhood House.

Whether Mr Mercuri is meticulously keeping score for the local basketball club, running water for the Kinglake Football Club (Lakers), or helping at the op shop, Mr Mercuri’s genuine kindness leaves an indelible mark on those around him.

“What I like about my volunteering is that they’re all different and I get to meet new people and learn new things every day,” he said.

Mr Mercuri said he wanted people to know that neurodivergence should not be perceived as a barrier, but rather can serve as a catalyst for achieving goals.

“I want people to know that autism is different for everyone, and that people with autism are still capable of doing things,” he said.

“It doesn’t stop me from doing what I love.”

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