ALTHOUGH THE first students won’t arrive for several more hours, the lunchroom at Riverside Christian Academy (RCA) is buzzing with activity. Pots and pans clang, cans are opened and produce is sorted as the day’s menu begins to take shape. The time for the first classes quickly arrives, and everything is ready and waiting. In addition to the trays filled with the day’s lunch, smiles await the hungry multitudes, and April Holt’s smile is among them.
Jessica Carter, cafeteria manager, said, “April is an integral part of our crew here in the RCA cafeteria. She’s in charge of sanitizing all our tables between lunch periods to ensure they are clean and welcoming for the next group of students, and she assists in making sure the serving line is moving [smoothly]. It would be really tough to get it all done without her. She is a joy to have on our crew. She adores dressing up for each holiday and having fun with the kids, and they love her back!”
According to April, who said she loves her friends and co-workers at RCA, the feeling is mutual. You’ll find April and her contagious smile at RCA, but if doctors had been correct in their prognosis, you wouldn’t see her at all. Born with Down syndrome, doctors predicted she’d live about a year.
April’s mother, Tami Holt, said, “But the Lord blessed us. He knew we needed an angel here on earth to help us.”
April matches that description perfectly. Dictionary.com defines “angel” as a person with qualities generally attributed to an angel, such as beauty, purity, or kindliness.
“She touches everybody’s heart and everything she comes in contact with,” said Breand Mitchell, April’s older sister.
April’s optimism and life outlook are less common than many of us possess. Today’s news headlines and circumstances do nothing to dim her light. Her sister said she’s kind and loving and never meets a stranger.
“She always looks for the better side of things and never gets discouraged. Her outlook on life is so much bigger than I can picture. If we could love the way she loves, the world would be a different place,” said Breand.
April, who always says that the truth will set you free, may understand the wisdom of her words more than others realize.
“April says it all the time. She wants to tell the truth no matter what,” her sister said. “And because of all she’s taught me, I can interact well with others with special needs. So many people love her and are able to love others with special needs because of her, including my husband.”
Breand is proud to be identified as April’s sister, and the sisters are fiercely protective of one another. April regularly tells Breand’s husband to be nice to her sister, and Breand is on call anytime April needs her — always has been.
Breand said, “I got in trouble on the bus because older kids were making fun of April, so I got up in their faces and actually punched one of them. But I treated her just like a normal sister growing up. I was mean to her, and I’d chase her around and take her toys away from her. April was very mean to me, too, and definitely took up for herself.”
April lives a highly independent life and thrives on routine, thanks to the support of her mother and sister and training at the Tennessee Rehabilitation Center in Smyrna.
“She gets herself up, fixes her breakfast, and rides the transportation van to work and back, pretty much living her own life while we’re both working,” said Breand, who lives less than a half mile from her mom and sister.
She’s Aunt April to Breand’s four daughters, a job she takes very seriously and loves dearly.
“She would sit down in her little glider chair and hold them, rock them, and sing to them. Growing up around her has taught my children not to treat [people who have special needs] any differently,” said Breand.
April’s deeply connected spiritually as if she has a direct connection to heaven. Her light shines even brighter when she prays.
Her mom said, “What she says is pure and comes from the heart. She prays over us, and you know God is right there. When she testifies in church, you know that what she says is true, and you get so encouraged. It’s a beautiful thing.”
April’s love, outlook, and honesty brighten the lives of everyone in her path. Should we expect any less from an angel on earth? GN