My name is Kaitlin Reilly and I’m a junior in high school in Northern New Jersey. For as long as I could remember, I have always had a passion for solving puzzles. I first found an interest in jigsaw puzzles when I was 10 years old. I remember the moment so vividly — I was in a toy store, cutting through the puzzle aisle when I saw a dazzling, colorful, and vibrant puzzle that seemed to capture the essence of New York City perfectly. The number of pieces had no bearing on my drive, I just loved the imagery so much that I had to give it my best shot. The puzzle ended up being 1,000, so with a little help from my family, I was able to complete it. It was from that day on that I fell in love with jigsaw puzzles!
For years I worked on puzzles ranging from 500 to 1,000 pieces, since they were the only ones that I could really find in the stores in my area. When I turned 14, I decided that I needed a bit more of a challenge and a bit more adventure in my life. The adventure came in 24,000 piece form and was called “Life”, the World’s Largest Jigsaw Puzzle. The puzzle clocks in at 24,000 pieces and spans 14ft by 5ft (70 sq. ft.). The puzzle, not for the faint of heart, took nearly 9 months and 250 hours to complete. I started working on the puzzle in May 2008 and finished up in February 2009. I currently hold the titles of: “Youngest in the World to Complete Solo”, “The Youngest in the World Solo after Mixing All the Puzzle Pieces Prior to Assembling” and “First to Complete in New Jersey, USA”.
Since then, I have completed the puzzle numerous times and have been looking for ways that I can share my unique passion with others. For my most recent puzzle effort, I was fortunate enough to work with an enthusiastic and creative team of residents at the Brighton Gardens Assisted Living in Allendale, New Jersey. A group of my girlfriends and I worked with closely residents at Brighton Gardens Assisted Living to put the puzzle together. I chose the “Life” puzzle in particular for this project, not only for the incredible imagery, but also because of the title – no one has experienced “Life” more than those residents. The puzzle was completed in June 2010 and it is now displayed there for all residents and visitors to see. My group of friends and I enjoyed working with the residents – we were able to learn from them and they were able to learn from us, while doing something that required the help of many to make up the whole.
I have decided to complete the jigsaw puzzle again for a 4th time and wanted to incorporate an organization that is very close to my heart, Autism Speaks. I chose this particular organization Autism Speaks for a multitude of reasons, but most importantly, because we have family and friends with Autism. In addition to the aforementioned, the Autism Speaks imagery is of a puzzle piece and the “Life” puzzle project would fit very well into this project. We are all puzzle pieces and we all fit together to form a bigger picture of unity and overall life. Every person, every animal, every object fits together. I am hoping that my project will not only raise awareness for Autism, but will also lead to an increased appreciation for life.
Please support me in my quest to raise $24,000 for Autism research and bring about Autism Awareness!
Make a donation today!