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This Teen Wants $170,000 for His Birthday — To Give Away

Joy Diaz/Texas Standard
Taylor Thompson (right) helps lift a wall of the Habitat for Humanity house he helped fund.

From Texas Standard:

What's the most indulgent thing you've ever done for your birthday? Checked something off your bucket list? Or bought yourself something really expensive? This week, Austinite Taylor Thompson turns 17 and he’s decided to go all out on a spending spree. Normally, birthdays at the Thompsons' are low-key celebrations. The family doesn't even blow up balloons.

This year, however, Taylor Thompson will be spending $170,000 dollars to celebrate his birthday. He announced his plans over the weekend in Austin.

"This day is not about me," Thompson says.

Confused? To explain, Taylor took me to a quiet place for a chat.

"So, right now we are in the chapel at St. Andrews Episcopal School in Austin – I feel a special connection to this place just because in October of 2014 when my mom passed away, her celebration of life was here," Thompson says. "And so, every time I sit in the pews, I feel like I'm with her. I don't know, when I'm here I can feel that calmness, I can feel like, 'Just settle down, Taylor. It's going to be OK.'"

Credit Joy Diaz/Texas Standard
Annette Lopez and her family will be moving into the first house funded by Taylor Thompson.

Maureen Thompson, Taylor's mom, was 50 years old when she died of breast cancer. The family was devastated, but Taylor says his dad, Gary Thompson, sat Taylor and his sisters down and told them about a plan for them to channel their sorrow.

"We don't have to change everything. We just have to change our one thing," Gary Thompson said. "And if everybody does their one thing, then we indeed can change everything."

The one thing Taylor Thompson decided to do to honor his mother was find the funds to build a home for a family in need.

He partnered with Austin's Habitat for Humanity. It takes $85,000 to build one Habitat home. When people heard Taylor was doing this to celebrate his mother's life, they pledged enough for more than one house. Now, he's looking to build two homes. Kendra Scott, the Austin-based jeweler, is also hosting a fundraiser for Taylor's cause.

Credit Courtesy of the Thompson family
A blueprint of the home being built for Annette Lopez, which was designed by Taylor Thompson's mother, Maureen.

  On Saturday, Taylor helped erect the first wall of the first home.

That's the first wall of what will be the first home Annette Lopez will own.

Habitat works by partnering with low-income families and the community at large. A qualifying family like Lopez’s has to physically help build a home for others before they can even put their down payment.

“I painted, we built a shed in the back,” Lopez says.

Just like Lopez helped build other people’s homes, families who hope to become homeowners are now helping build hers.

“I would to like to thank all the sponsors who came out here, and I’m very excited to be here,” Lopez says.

Lopez still needs to work 150 more hours for Habitat. But she’s excited about what’s to come. In a few months, her family will be ready to move in.

Taylor Thompson is also excited. He recently learned the design Habitat uses in Central Texas was drawn by an architect he knew well: his mother.

He says now, he believes he truly can change everything – one thing at a time.

“My mom’s love changed me,” Taylor says. “Mom, I hope you like my first thing.”

Texas Standard reporter Joy Diaz has amassed a lengthy and highly recognized body of work in public media reporting. Prior to joining Texas Standard, Joy was a reporter with Austin NPR station KUT on and off since 2005. There, she covered city news and politics, education, healthcare and immigration.
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