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'I feel that all children deserve our best'

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JASPER, Ore. - A volunteer teacher at a center for kids who have suffered abuse poured the earnings from a children's book he wrote back into building a courtyard at the school.

"I feel that all children deserve our best but especially children who have suffered the trauma of abuse, who have had so much taken away from them," said Greg Ahlijian, the force behind the new children's courtyard at the Jasper Mountain Center.

"This is what one individual has been able to do because he stood up and he said, 'I'm going to make a difference'," said David Ziegler, the executive director at Jasper Mountain.

The school and boarding house works with up to 40 youth at a time, ages 5 to 13, who have suffered phsyical, emotional or sexual abuse.

Ahlijian has been a longtime volunteer teacher at the school. Back in 2010, he published "The Large Rock and the Little Yew", a book about overcoming challenges in life.

"Money can't buy what these children give me, and they've given me a whole lot more than this courtyard. This is my way of saying thank you to them," he said. "I've donated every penny of every book that I've sold to finance this children's courtyard."

All $110,000 he earned from the book has gone back into the courtyard to pay for play equipment, an outdoor classroom, a climbing wall, and basalt columns inscribed with words of hope to help children overcome their past and build a brighter future.

"What happened to you in your past, due to no fault of your own, does not have to define your future," Ahlijian said.

The courtyard has come together over the past 4 months. A public dedication ceremony is planned for Sunday at 1 p.m.

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