The Beautiful Way a Couple Responded to Their Daughter’s Death

Cathy and Adin McCann were driving from their home in Des Plaines, Ill., to Pittsburgh, Penn., to spend Thanksgiving with Adin’s family when they decided that instead of letting grief consume them, they’d fight it with as much joy as they could muster.

A week earlier, their 3-year-old daughter, Sadie, had passed away from complications from Aicardi syndrome, a rare genetic disorder which typically includes brain malformations, vision issues, severe developmental and physical disabilities and daily difficult-to-control seizures.

Sadie Vert

While they drove, the McCanns reflected on Sadie’s life and came to a conclusion: They were going to continue to celebrate their brave little girl.

“It was important to us that she not be forgotten,” Cathy McCann told The Mighty. “We wanted to do something that would let her spirit live on.”

Because Sadie had always reminded them to be kind, her parents created a list of random acts of kindness that could be done in her honor. McCann wrote about her pay-it-forward idea on her blog, “Sadie’s Journey.”  Soon after, people from all over the U.S. began sending emails saying they’d like to participate remotely. Some plan to follow the McCanns’ list of kindness ideas. Others are putting their own twist on tasks.

One friend in Los Angeles, for example, will spend an afternoon cheering people up with “random acts of culture,” performing theater and musical numbers in the streets.

Pictures of peoples’ acts of kindness are posted to a Facebook page called, “Friends of Sadie McCann.”

On May 3 — the Saturday after Sadie’s birthday — those who live close to the McCanns will gather in St. Martin’s Episcopal Church in Des Plaines to honor that brave little girl’s life.

“There will be sadness, of course,” Cathy McCann told The Mighty. “But I hope it will be a celebration.”

She hopes the kindness challenge and her choice to be positive will inspire others to make small efforts to be kind every day.

“Doing something little — opening the door for someone or helping someone reach the cereal — that can mean so much to a person going through something,” McCann said. “I’d like to see people be kinder to everyone around them.

Donations in Sadie’s memory can be made to the Ronald McDonald House Charities of Chicagoland.


This Boy's Extraordinary Talent Stunned Experts at the National Dog Show

When Cory Gould’s mother told director Tim O’Donnell she was bringing her son to the National Dog Show Presented by Purina, O’Donnell had one response.


A convention center full of people and dogs seemed like an odd place to bring an 11-year-old boy with Asperger syndrome, O’Donnell thought. So much noise and chaos may make for an uncomfortable setting.

But for Cory this isn’t the case – he has a passion for dogs, and he can tell you pretty much anything you need to know about them. In fact, when Cory is talking about canines, he has less trouble in social situations.

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When Cory’s parents, Heather and Jonathan, realized their son’s fascination and talent, they called O’Donnell and asked if he’d be interested in making a film about Cory. He was.

“For the Love of Dogs,” which screened in April 2014 at the Independent Film Festival of Boston, centers around Cory’s trip to the dog show, but really, O’Donnell says, the 25-minute documentary is about much more. [Update: The full film can now be purchased for viewing here.]

“Autism isn’t easy. It’s hard,” O’Donnell, 30, told The Mighty. “[Cory] and his family work hard every day.”

The director hopes “For the Love of Dogs” will show people the highs and lows of autism, how difficult it can be and how beautiful it can be, too. Maybe, he says, it will raise awareness about the realities of the developmental disorder.

“If you see a kid throwing a tantrum in, say, a grocery store, maybe hold off your judgment,” O’Donnell told The Mighty. “That kid’s been working hard all day and maybe this is just the moment it got to be too much.”

Take a look at the trailer for “For the Love of Dogs” below.

h/t The Boston Herald

Special Pair of Jeans Finds a New Audience

When Karen Bowersox set out to design a fashion line for people with Down syndrome, she had her granddaughter, Maggie, in mind — not adult men with disabilities that make it difficult to manipulate a button or zipper. But her endeavor is reaching a new audience.

Maggie, now 9, is a model for Downs Designs, her grandmother’s 4-year-old business that offers jeans, shirts and shorts for people with Down syndrome. Bowersox’s original idea was to create clothes that could be easily put on and taken off. Pants have elastic waists, and jeans are stretchy. There are no skin-irritating tags nor hard-to-operate zippers. Above all — the clothes are stylish.

“I think people with disabilities are the most fashion-forgotten people in [the U.S.],” Bowersox, 65, told The Mighty.


In the last year, as Downs Designs gained media attention, Bowersox discovered a great need for jeans for men who have limited use of their hands or upper body and would benefit from pants without zippers or a button. So, she’s created a sister company, NBZ Jeans.

“I’ve realized that jeans without buttons or zippers don’t have to be limited to men with Down syndrome,” 1794654_690798170962337_3490184106522489614_n Bowersox told The Mighty. “The line will benefit men with autism or cerebral palsy or even arthritis — any disability that makes putting on jeans difficult.”

Men without disabilities have shown interest in NBZ Jeans, too. One customer who professionally rides motorcycles, told Bowersox that her jeans were the only ones he could wear while racing.

“Our jeans aren’t just a pair of jeans,” Bowersox told The Mighty.

Above all, Downs Designs and NBZ Jeans are meant to instill confidence.

“People in our clothes don’t have to be nervous to do ordinary things like go to the bathroom or change in a public place,” Bowersox said. “They don’t have to wear pants that look like bloomers and fit awkwardly. They can just be themselves.”

It's Impossible Not to Smile When You Hear This Girl Sing

Grace Anna Rodgers has more than 800,000 fans on Facebook. When you hear her sing, you’ll understand why.

The 3-year-old has a rare genetic disorder called Conradi-Hunermann syndrome. Since her birth, she’s also dealt with cataract surgery, severe kyphosis and scoliosis of the spine, and other health issues, according to her Facebook page.

“With all of that said, she is never in a bad mood,” her family writes on Facebook. “She is always singing and happy.”

Visit Grace’s YouTube page to see all of her videos. Check out two of our favorites below.

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After Months in the Hospital, 15-Year-Old Gets Surprise Visit From Her Boyfriend. Pure Happiness Ensues.

India Brainard had no idea her boyfriend, Daniel, was coming to see her.

The 15-year-old, who has cerebral palsy, was in the hospital for more than 50 days recovering from a dual hip replacement procedure and a femur re-alignment surgery, according to ABC News. So her dad, Donnie, set up a reunion between his daughter and Daniel. In the video below, while Donnie asks India who she’d most like to see that day, Daniel is wheeled into her room. Smiles erupt everywhere.

“The joy of knowing my child had been given the opportunity to feel the happiness at 14 of having a boyfriend, the butterflies, the excitement; this love is a gift that most never experience,” Donnie Brainard wrote in a blog post when India and Daniel first met.  “Especially considering both of these kids are trapped in broken and painful bodies yet have found happiness in each other.”


If you’d like to help the Brainard family with medical expenses, visit their fundraising page here

How 25,000 Shoes Helped a Little Girl in Bulgaria Find a Family

When Tracy Jensen and her husband made the decision to adopt a child with a disability, they knew the process would be complex. What they didn’t expect was the outpouring of kindness and generosity they would receive from strangers when things didn’t go exactly as planned.

The Jensens have five sons ranging in age from 6 to 18. Their youngest son, Kumaka, was born with Spina Bifida — a birth defect that has both physical and neurological symptoms. Soon after, Tracy Jensen began a blog called, “Dear Life from a Mom of Boys” about her growing family. She became active in the Spina Bifida community.

One of the mothers Jensen met online was in the process of adopting a child from Russia. The woman’s story was uplifting, and Jensen and her husband soon found themselves discussing a similar adoption.

“I didn’t think we would qualify,” Jensen told The Mighty, “but we did.”

In August 2012, they contacted Children’s House International Adoptions, a non-profit adoption agency headquartered in Washington State with programs in 14 countries.

“We told [our case manager] we were interested in adopting a young girl with Spina Bifida, and she sent us several profiles of available children,” Jensen said.

Among them was 3-year-old Sofi — a tiny girl with big, beautiful eyes and an infectious smile.

“We just fell in love with her,” Jensen said. via Tracy Jensen

There was just one problem – the Jensens needed help raising the $35,000 in adoption expenses.

So, the family organized several fundraisers — the most successful of which was a drive dubbed, “Shoes for Sofi.” Its premise was to collect pairs of “gently worn” shoes for Angel Bins, a for-profit company that helps raise money for nonprofit causes by recycling used items.

Their goal was to collect 5,000 pairs of shoes. Many shoes came from neighbors in Fountain Valley, Calif., — but an outpour of support came people from around the country. Every day when Jensen stepped outside her home, she’d find bags of shoes piled up by her doorstep.

“Never in a million years did we think we would see our shoe drive go almost viral,” Jensen wrote on her blog.

The family eventually reached their goal of 5,000 pairs — then, they surpassed it. In total, they collected roughly 12,500 pairs of shoes in just five weeks, earning more than $9,000, according to Jensen. This allowed her to travel to Bulgaria in February 2014 to finalize the adoption.

When they returned, mom and daughter were greeted at the airport by the rest of the family.


“Everybody loved her,” Jensen recalled. “She fit in perfectly.”

That didn’t change when doctors in the U.S. told the Jensens that Sofi’s original diagnosis was not accurate. Sofi doesn’t have Spina Bifida — she has cerebral palsy, as well as other medical issues, some of which remain a puzzle, Jensen said.

But her family isn’t concerned with the change in diagnosis. They’re thrilled to have Sofi with them and are prepared to do whatever they need to help her.

“[Cerebral palsy] is a different world from the world of Spina Bifida, but that is okay. We will figure it out,” Jensen said. “She was meant to be with us.”

“This story is about love,” she added. “It’s about the love for a little girl and all the people who helped bring a little girl they didn’t even know home.”

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