St. Paul’s to honor alumnus Michael Heatherly with Impact Award

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Michael and Sara Heatherly with their son Porter in 2016 (Photo courtesy of Michael Porter)

CULLMAN, Ala. – St. Paul’s Lutheran School in Cullman has named alumnus Michael Heatherly as the recipient of its second Impact Award.  

Heatherly went on from St. Paul’s to study at Wallace State Community College and Auburn University, where he graduated in 2008 with a bachelor’s degree in forestry. He is a registered forester in Alabama and Mississippi, an Alabama real estate agent and is currently vice president/chairman of Sizemore & Sizemore, Inc., a Tallassee-based firm specializing in forest appraisal, analysis and management. 

Heatherly was named for the award for his work in fundraising for research on GM1 gangliosidosis, a genetic disorder that affected his son Porter, and, according to the National Institutes of Health, “progressively destroys nerve cells (neurons) in the brain and spinal cord.” Porter was diagnosed at only 4 months old in 2012 with the rare disease that affects about one in every 200,000 infants. His was the first recorded case of childhood GM1 in Alabama.  

Michael Heatherly and his wife Sara Heatherly have for years, both during their son’s battle with the disease and since Porter’s passing in 2016, worked to increase awareness of GM1 and promote fundraising for research and treatment. During Porter’s lifetime, he and his parents visited researchers at Auburn University’s veterinary medicine Scott-Ritchey Research Center who were working on a potential human treatment based on previous animal research, and Michael Heatherly was present when the first trial dose was administered to a 10 yearold girl in 2019. 

More about the disease and the Heatherlys efforts can be found at www.facebook.com/Prayers-for-Porter.  

St. Paul’s released this statement: 

“St. Paul’s Lutheran School is happy to announce the 2021 recipient of the Impact Award, Michael Heatherly. This award is designed to recognize those teachers, administrators, support staff and students (who) have had a significant impact on the lives of young people in our school and in their community. Michael and his wife Sara’s dedication to GM1 fundraising has helped raise over $300,000 to further study and research. The Heatherlys son, Porter, was diagnosed with GM1 and passed away in 2016. They have made a significant impact on those families suffering with a loved one fighting GM1. It is our privilege to present Michael Heatherly with the St. Paul’s Lutheran School Impact Award.” 

In a previous statement, St. Paul’s Director of Creative Services Emily Hayes Trahan shared about the Impact Award: “The inspiration for the award comes from the following scripture: ‘Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms. If anyone speaks, they should do so as one who speaks the very words of God. If anyone serves, they should do so with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen.’ 1 Peter 4: 10-11 

On his Facebook page, Heatherly quoted Jeremiah 29:11: “‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.’” 

The Impact Award will be presented at the St. Paul’s Alumni and Friends Dinner scheduled for May 15, 2021 at Seasoned Catering, 316 Second Ave. SW in Cullman. Tickets for the event will be available through the website www.stpaulscullman.com  beginning April 1. 

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W.C. Mann

craig@cullmantribune.com