August was a big month for Gabriel Adkins.
He was diagnosed with autism and started pre-k.
Gabriel's mother, Michele, enrolled him in a special pre-k class for children with learning challenges at Park View Elementary School in Cleveland.
Students in the program were given iPads to aid learning, and Gabriel's was loaded with games designed to help children with autism.
Weeks after classes began Gabriel was happier and talking more, Michele said. Emotional outbursts she had come to expect when it was time to brush his teeth or wash his hair vanished.
Michele said she knew the iPad had made a visible difference in her son's life, but she also knew the iPad would disappear at the end of the school year. So she started looking for grants that would help her purchase an iPad for her son. While there were cheaper tablets, the apps Gabriel needed only worked on an iPad.
In November, Michele was browsing TimesFreePress.com when she noticed the newspaper was giving away iPads on Black Friday.
While out shopping, she snapped a photo of three men reclining on lounge chairs in the middle of Walmart while their wives chased midnight deals, and sent it to the Times Free Press photo contest.
Times Free Press journalists chose Michele's photo, and another picture from Chattanooga resident Menyika McGhee as the contest winners.
"This is such a blessing," Michele said. "For most people an iPad is just a neat thing, but to us it unlocks a whole other world with our son. It's… a Christmas miracle."
Harrison Keely is a web producer for the Times Free Press. He manages social media for the paper and anchors the daily Times Free Press newscast. He joined the Chattanooga Times Free Press as a reporter in 2010. He previously served as managing editor of the Smoky Mountain Sentinel in western North Carolina and as a business reporter for the Washington Times in Washington, D.C. He graduated from Lee University in 2009 where he served ...