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Farragut boy recognized for "surfing" picture

4:10 PM, Aug 27, 2013   |    comments
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In the past year or so, Austin Hankins has improved his wake boarding skills, or as he calls it, surfing.

"He started originally when he was about two on an inner tube and over the years he wants to try something a little more daring each time," his mother Missy Hankins said.

You can see he's perfected his technique.

"He starts off with a rope and he gets into the wake of the boat and he tosses the rope and he rides the wave," he said.

Austin grew up in Farragut at a house on the water so being on a boat is just part of life.

"We just so happen to be a loud crazy family and so there's a lot of stuff that he's exposed to from riding and driving and wake boarding and fishing to pretty much every element," his father Greg Hankins said.

When he was born, Greg and Missy Hankins didn't expect Austin's Down syndrome diagnosis. And they were not satisfied with a doctor's advice to lower their expectations for him.

Greg said, "Never in life have I thought of anything that I would expect less. And I think that was probably a driving point for us to step it up."

Missy said, "We've raised him just like we have our daughters with a love of the water and we're just so grateful that he loves to try new things and he succeeds in a lot of the things he tries."

For the third time he's succeeded in getting his photograph displayed in a prominent spot.

"The Buddy Walk in New York City asks for photos of children and adults with Down syndrome doing various things and so we submitted Austin's picture of surfing and they chose it and it will be aired on the big screen in Times Square in September," Missy explained.

His picture was picked from more than 1,100 submissions. The National Down Syndrome Society's annual Times Square Video presentation will feature about 200 pictures of people with Down syndrome.

That exposure is just another highlight for a child whose parents refuse to lower their expectations.

"It's not just us," Greg said. "We have tons of friends and teachers and people who have been involved in his life so it's a group effort. And I think that's the part to convey to people is to go get that group. Go get the friends. Keep everybody involved."

They're raising a little boy with a big heart.

"He has the most incredible personality that just takes charge. Experiences from seeing an elderly lady in a restaurant that's sitting by herself and he just randomly walks up and gives them a hug to shaking some man's hand that's just wandering around to he just knows how to brighten up a room. That's the best part," Greg said.

Austin might say the best part is being on the water surfing.

Knoxville's own Buddy Walk is October 13 at World's Fair Park.
























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