When The Project Is Love

"That’s the biggest part of your life," says Wesley Smith, 14, as he eyes the personal pizza in front of him.

"What?" says his mom, Karey Riddell, 39, from the next room.

"Getting me up and out of bed for school!" Wesley replies, with a matter-of-fact smile. Karey pokes her head around the corner of the kitchen.

"Yeah, really, yeah, that’s probably true." she says, laughing.

This home is full of laughter; even disciplining Wesley is done with a smile. Karey says she has learned that Wesley responds best to affirmation. He craves love. Karey, her husband, Noel, and their extended family have plenty to give.

Wesley was diagnosed with Autism Spectrum disorder when he was 5 years old. Restaurants and social situations present a unique challenge for him. When Karey opened The Burley Market in downtown Cynthiana last May, it posed a problem for Wesley. “Wesley can’t sit in the store," she says. "He can’t handle it.”

Suffering from sensory issues related to his autisim, Wesley can’t separate the sounds in a bustling cafe. At school, Wesley eats his lunch in the offices of his teachers, talking with them or listening to classical music.

Before opening The Burley Market, caring for Wesley was Karey’s main project. Karey is a woman of endless projects, says her mom, Monica Mattox, of Cynthiana.

“She’s been that way her whole life,” Monica says. Karey has been marketing director at an industrial products company, director of community development at a community college and Cythiana Main Street Development Coordinator. Opening The Burley was a way of contributing to the community, Karey says.

Despite the demands of owning and operating a café, Karey continues to focus on Wesley’s care. Weekday afternoons, Wesley plays music outside The Burley. Every night, Karey checks to be sure he’s done his homework. 

Karey is hopeful about Wesley's future. "I hope he can be independent," she says with a smile. "I want him to manage himself. I want him to be an adult, a tax -paying citizen. I want him to have value. He has a big heart; I know he can do it."

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