Despite autism, Cody (left) and Michael Heyne have been enthusiastic band members at Centerville High School. CONTRIBUTED

Autistic twins excel in Centerville marching band

‘They have found their voice through music, band and dance.’

Dean and Mindy Heyne of Centerville have fostered dozens of children. Eighteen years ago, they became foster parents to Michael and Cody, twin special-needs infants who were autistic.

Today Michael and Cody Heyne are Centerville High School seniors who wake up every morning thinking that day is the best day of their life.

“We adopted Michael and Cody because we knew we needed them in our family and they needed us,” said Mindy Heyne. Not only did the Heynes become adoptive parents but also they eventually became band parents.

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Recently Bands of America, an organization that promotes and organizes marching band competitions for high school students, featured Michael and Cody in a video on YouTube.

Brandon Barrometti, director of Centerville’s High School Marching Band, believes music helps Michael and Cody express themselves. “They have found their voice through music, band and dance,” he said. He said at first, he and the boys had some apprehension, but “we just let it happen naturally.”

Mindy and Dean are the parents of seven children (five adopted and two biological) and foster parents to a kindergartner. Mindy and Dean had never been exposed to the life of a band parent until Michael and Cody picked up an instrument at Watts Middle School. “The inclusion in band has been phenomenal. The other students have consistently embraced Michael and Cody,” Mindy said. “They love life. They love each other, and they love the band program.”

In addition to marching band, the boys participate in concert band and jazz band. “And during the holidays when students are out at University of Dayton, the boys have filled in with the pep band,” said Dean.

Michael plays percussion, and Cody plays alto saxophone. “We also are honorary Co-eds,” said Cody. The Centerville Co-eds are the school’s dance team.

In addition to music, Michael has learned sign language fluently and recently signed the National Anthem at a Centerville football game. And Cody likes to choreograph dances, and he and Michael performed one of his dances at a high school talent show last year and won.

“Michael and Cody have brought joy and deeper appreciation for our many blessings. Their infectious joy for life is constantly on display and can brighten anyone’s day,” said Dean. “We love the fact that they have introduced us to the importance of the performing arts and the life skills taught through the commitment required. The love they have for each other reminds us the importance of a supporting family. We love these guys just the way they are, and though they have special challenges, they have so much to give.”

Dean and Mindy’s biological son and his wife have two children and recently were in the market to buy a home. The real-estate agent asked how many children they have, and they said, “Two, but there will be foster children.”

Dean and Mindy have passed the torch of unconditional kindness and supportive family on to the next generation.

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Contact this contributing writer at pgmcginnis45419@yahoo.com.

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