Jaxon Maples, 4, has been obsessed with fans since he was a baby.
Even before his family knew he had autism, Jaxon’s parents would put him underneath a ceiling fan to help him calm down and stop crying.
As he got older and was able to crawl and walk to the laundry room, Jaxon’s obsession expanded to include the washer and dryer.
Then one day young Jaxon discovered the appliance section at Lowe’s. He’s insisted on visiting the home improvement store several times a week ever since.
If the family is driving somewhere but doesn’t have time to stop at Lowe’s, Jaxon’s mom said, they have to plan their routes so they don’t pass a Lowe’s store.
“It’s kind of crazy because my son has never been attracted to what a lot of kids are interested in, like going to Chuck E. Cheese or Incredible Pizza,” said mom Shauna Rippee. “He wants to go to Lowe’s.”
Sorry, Menard’s and Home Depot.
Jaxon only likes to visit Lowe’s.
“When you have a child who is autistic and he is on the spectrum, he can have massive meltdowns,” Rippee said. “We are so thankful that we know how to calm him down before it gets into a really bad situation. We just get in the car and go to Lowe’s.”
Rippee recently reached out to Lowe’s corporate office, asking if she could get a red Lowe’s vest for Jaxon. The corporate office forwarded Rippee’s request to management at the Lowe’s location in south Springfield.
Manager Marty Davis and his team did more than just order Jaxon a red vest.
They made Jaxon an honorary associate on Saturday and gave him a Lowe’s bucket full of Lowe’s swag.
“My team was really inspired by his story and his connection to Lowe’s,” Davis said. “We tried to make it a special day for him. There’s so much going on in this world right now. He made our Saturday at Lowe’s.”
Davis said they filled the Lowe’s bucket with a kid’s hat, Lowe’s-themed toys, build-kits and a Lowe’s football signed by the associates.
“He’s a special little guy,” Davis said. “It was a great day. I don’t know if he had a better day or if we had a better day.”
A photographer was scheduled to shoot photos on Saturday but had to cancel because she had been in contact with someone who tested positive for COVID-19.
Shauna Rippee said she was in tears when she learned a photographer might not be there. But that photographer contacted Michelle Cramer with Eternal Image Photography.
Cramer, whose own son is on the autism spectrum, said she was “ecstatic” to do a last-minute photo shoot for the family.
“I have a special place in my heart for families with an ASD (autism spectrum disorder) child because many don’t think pictures are possible,” Cramer said. “But they totally are.”
What is it about appliances?
During their frequent trips to Lowe’s, Rippee said her son likes to put his hand inside the dryers and gently spin the tubs.
“They have these sensory issues,” Rippee said of children with autism. “He can spin it and watch it go in circles. He loves that.”
Jaxon likes to sit on top of washers, open the trays and point out where the soap, fabric softener and bleach go.
Rippee said Jaxon is considered to be nonverbal and has been in speech therapy for three years. But when it comes to fans, washers and dryers — he has lots to say.
“He’ll go on to the next washer and dryer and spin it. Then he’ll push the buttons,” she said. “He’ll show me, ‘Mommy, look. Mommy, look, look at the black one.’ He’ll even say, ‘Here’s a Samsung.'”
“He’s just really smart,” Rippee said. “We have people that have just stopped and watched him. And it’s pretty amazing.”
Rippe said Jaxon’s fan collection has grown to over 100 fans. When they go into a store that carries fans, Jaxon knows exactly where to find them.
‘Jaxon’s happy place’
Jaxon mostly frequents the Lowe’s on West Norton Road, the location closest to home. But he’s also a familiar face at the Primrose Street location, where he was named an honorary associate Saturday.
The family’s income took a hit due to the pandemic, and they recently decided to get rid of mom’s vehicle. But Jaxon’s grandparents have been helping out with rides to Lowe’s, and his dad Denny Maples often takes Jaxon after work.
While the pandemic has made it more difficult to get to Lowe’s, it’s also made the trips even more important, Shauna Rippee said.
Routine is very important to Jaxon, and COVID-19 has caused his school and therapy routines to be completely disrupted.
“Lowe’s has just been kind of a lifesaver for us and for my son,” Rippee said. “(Lowe’s) has been the center of our world, because our world is Jaxon. And his meltdowns — he would scratch his face till he was bleeding with his routine going off and not seeing his teachers and his friends.”
“It was really bad, so we just decided we would go to Lowe’s and we would stay there and he was happy,” she said. “The staff at Lowe’s has always been so friendly. It’s definitely the best thing that could have happened for our son.”
“We know that everybody is going through a rough time and everybody has things that are helping them cope through this time,” she said. “This is Jaxon’s happy place.”