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November 2011



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Will Newman and his father, Steve.Will Newman and his father, Steve

5:32 PM, Nov. 23, 2011

Written by Barbara Blake


ASHEVILLE — Something incredible happened last summer in a big white house on top of a hill in a suburban South Asheville neighborhood.

It began in the heart of a 16-year-old boy with Asperger’s syndrome who loves his father beyond measure, and ended with a spectacular gift that may help change and even save the lives of countless people across the world.

How, you might ask, can a teen-ager with an autism-related disability change the world? Will Newman will tell you that anything is possible. If only you believe.

The story begins five years ago, when Will was 11 and traveled with his parents, Steve and Wendy Newman, to the M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, Texas.

Steve suffers from chronic lymphocytic leukemia, an incurable, fatal disease in which the patient produces an overabundance of white blood cells. It is treatable, and most people can live many productive years after diagnosis. After six months of chemotherapy two years ago, Steve is now in full remission.

In Houston, Will met his father’s physician, Dr. Michael Keating, a man Wendy describes as “a cherubic, jolly Australian who has committed his life to finding a cure for CLL” as president and CEO of CLL Global Research Foundation.


“It was at the cancer center in Houston that Will “got the full sense of the gravity of Steve’s illness,” Wendy said. “And he was indelibly impressed with the men and women doing this work to find a cure for his dad’s disease.”

It was also there that the seeds were planted in Will’s mind that he could find a way to help those researchers carry on their mission. Five years later, he did.

A gift for music


Will Newman is an exceptional young man, both because of and in spite of Asperger’s, a syndrome on the high-functioning end of the autism spectrum. Those with Asperberger’s typically struggle with social awareness, peer interaction, and reading and interpreting the body language of others.

You’d never know, unless you were told, that Will has any sort of disability, and much of that has to do with the patient and gentle training his parents provided in his younger years. Today, he is articulate, intelligent, charming, gracious and filled with a sweet and generous spirit that is undeniably genuine.

Will is an Eagle Scout, an honor student at Roberson High, an accomplished actor, a brown belt in karate, a level-six ballroom dancer and an award-winning photographer and writer.

Among those awards are four Gold Key and four Silver Key Scholastic Art Awards, the National American Visions Medal and a $1,000 Creativity and Citizenship Scholarship Award, a prestigious honor presented to only four students across the nation.

But those accomplishments almost pale against Will’s musical gifts, which have taken him to Carnegie Hall with his high school symphonic band and put him in the center of the local funk band Jazz the Ripper, along with performances at venues ranging from the Biltmore Estate to the Orange Peel to Bele Chere and Diana Wortham Theatre.

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