(WAFB) - For most of us, all we'll know of LCpl. Taylor Conrad is his Marine portrait. It shows a proud serviceman in a crisp uniform with a freckled, youthful face composed in a determined stare. However, it's candid shots of his days at Central High School, hugging and smiling with special needs students, that show something more.
"He had this rough, tough Marine athletic mentality, but then he would be so general and sweet and kind and just a whole other side of him when he was with children and especially special needs children," said his mother Dawn Conrad.
Long before the nation knew Conrad's name as one four Marines killed in a helicopter crash, his family and friends knew him for a unique ability to always see more in others. He had a passion for working with kids with special needs. It was a gift his mom says was just part of what made him, him.
"He was just born that way. Even as a child he did not see people with special needs or even older people as any different," said Conrad. "He just saw the person, not the exterior shell."
Before shipping off to boot camp, Conrad spent time working at Bellingrath Hills Elementary School, and he noticed that when it came to playtime there weren't many options for kids with special needs.
However, that could soon change.
In the wake of the 24-year-old's death, Conrad's family and friends are turning their loss into a mission to carry on his passion. They've set up a Go Fund Me account to raise money to build a special needs playground for the Central School District in his memory.
The goal is to raise up to $200,000 to buy the needed equipment. All of the money raised will be donated by the Conrad family to Central's School District for the purpose of building the playground. Conrad's mother says they'll build whatever they can, with whatever they raise whether that's enough for one wheelchair accessible swing set, or two full playgrounds.
Conrad said her son would love the idea of the playground, and she hopes when it comes to fruition others can see the world as he did.
"My son always looked at people for their heart and soul, and not what they looked like on the outside. I hope that as people look at that playground they can carry that away and try to do the same for themselves," said Conrad.
For more information on the Go Fund Me, click here.
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