“Theo’s Story” received particular attention when it was chosen as a “Staff Pick” on Vimeo. Take a look at the short documentary below to see why the only thing that makes Theo stand out is his positive attitude.
“Just because someone can’t see as far as someone else, that doesn’t mean they’re really different,” Jake, Theo’s best friend, explains in the video. “It just means, well, that he’s blind. Yeah. So what?”
Five years ago, my wife and I had a truly awful day. In the span of a few hours, we got thumped twice. In the morning, we learned that the baby she was pregnant with was short one organ and maybe more. In the afternoon, we learned that our struggling 2-year-old daughter had a rare chromosome disorder, Dup15q syndrome, and as the doctor put it, her mind probably wouldn’t develop beyond that of a small child.
Lying in bed that night we were shaken and lost. This was not the life or family we had planned. I remember feeling small and hollow, a powerless husband and father. Whether it was a futile attempt to comfort my wife or a way for me to make sense of it all, I told her that we were going to do something good with this. How, she asked. I had no idea. We were in tears.
Our journey has been far different than we expected. Over time, life’s colors got brighter, deeper and richer. Our highs are higher, our lows are lower and we’re often bowled over by little moments packed with beauty and meaning. It’s a good way to live.
Our daughter has serious challenges, autism among them, but she has grown into a sweet little girl who continues to defy limitations that others place on her. Our second was born with one kidney, but he has no serious medical issues. And we’ve since added another boy whose chromosomes and organs are all in order, but his ears stick out. Hey, nobody’s perfect.
Among the greatest lessons that we’ve learned on this adventure is that the challenges we face truly can become our greatest opportunities. This is where The Mighty began.
Over the last several months, I’ve bought a lot of drinks and dinners for friends and colleagues. I wanted to pick their brains. These are talented people I respect and trust who do amazing work for the likes of ABC News, NBC News, The New York Times, The Huffington Post, Yahoo, Forbes, Esquire, MTV, Disney, Google and more.
We kicked around ideas that all came back to a central question: Could we build a media company that actually helps people?
I’m happy to say that we believe the answer is yes. To start, we’re launching TheMighty.com. I couldn’t think of a better person to lead this effort than Megan Griffo, who is taking the helm as editor. Megan walked away from a great gig at The Huffington Post leading its Good News vertical to build something special here. Of more than 400 writers, she was ranked #1 in viral traffic when she dropped me an email that read, “I’m in. Let me know where we go from here.” That takes guts. I encourage you to read her first story here because it says a lot about our site and even more about her: Why I Joined The Mighty.
Stories that inspire people – that can change the path of someone’s day, as my wife says – are a great start, but we are going after much more. Ultimately we want to improve the lives of people facing disease, disorder and disability. This is not a small ambition. It requires a unique business model and strong relationships with non-profits, advertisers, media companies, researchers, educators, advocates and most importantly, people like you. Without a community of people who care and share, we have nothing.
My conversations with colleagues have been energizing, to say the least. The central idea has struck a chord in nearly everyone. Their insights have been incredibly helpful, but what has really surprised me is that they’ve given much more than advice. They’ve asked to help build The Mighty.
Not long ago, I got a Skype message from one of those friends who put together a small team of people to create the website. It was something along the lines of, “here we go: themighty.com.” I clicked. It was just an ugly prototype with a couple sample stories – we hadn’t actually designed a site yet — but it was there, alive. It felt great, so great that I bounced off the couch and just started pacing. That’s when I saw the calendar on the refrigerator and realized the date. It was exactly five years to that awful day when we got my daughter’s diagnosis.
What a journey. From small and hollow and powerless to The Mighty. Join us. We’re going to do something good with this.
The photographer from Boston, Mass., encounters them every day while he builds a project called, “What I Be,” where subjects put their biggest insecurities in front of Rosenfield’s lens. Some are fighting disease, and some are living with disabilities. Some are going through life with a mental illness, and some are recovering from past traumas. Some are young, and some are old.
But all of these people won’t stand for being labeled by their challenges.
“I just wish we could all understand others better,” Rosenfield, 39, told The Mighty in an email, “and be more kind to each other.”
You can visit Rosenfield’s website to view the entire “What I Be” series, and scroll down to meet a few of his brave subjects.
I picture a bookshelf in the “Disease” section with a large gap in it, while she picks up the first book. For some reason, maybe only to avoid my writer’s block, I continue watching her. She’s alone, and I’m tempted to say she looks distraught, but I know this could be my brain running wild with a fictional backstory. For all I know, she’s a student preparing for an exam. For all I know, she’s an accomplished oncologist. For all I know, she’s just curious.
While my imagination runs, a man who I assume is her husband sits down across from her and takes one of the books for himself. Then a fast, almost invisible moment happens where they look up and lock eyes, as if to say, “Well, here we are,” before they both go back to reading.
The glance may seem insignificant. Maybe even I imagined it. But from three feet away, I’m left thinking, “Isn’t it nice to have someone sitting at your table?”
For me, that’s what The Mighty is going to be. A digital table for two. A virtual shoulder to cry on. A fast, almost invisible moment of comfort.
We’re not here to say that your challenges aren’t hard. They are. And we’re not here to say you can’t have bad days. You can, and you’re going to. We’re not going to put your disability or disorder on a pedestal for others to learn from or turn your story into a textbook chapter on how to get through life.
Instead, we’re here to shine a light on the beautiful moments — even the fast, almost invisible ones — that happen when people face challenges.
The Mighty, I hope, will be a place to come if you need to be reminded that you’re not going through whatever you’re going through alone. It’s a place that will make you think about the cards life has dealt you and decide what your next play will be or if you’re even in the mood to make one. I joined The Mighty because there’s a difference between alone time and actually being alone. And that difference may convince someone to not give up just yet.
After all — life’s easier when you’re at a table for two.
Jen Bresler, a teacher at Central Middle School in Greenwich, Conn., recently started “Mighty Mondays,” offering eighth graders the opportunity to read or watch a story on TheMighty.com and discuss it during class. When asked what they thought of Mighty Mondays, here is how her students responded.
The website is really inspirational! It makes you think twice about treating people differently and let’s you laugh at yourself. Not only did it inspire me but I showed it to my whole family and they loved it! – Polly D’Agostino
They inspire me that a disability can’t take away from what you do in your our life, to believe you can is what makes it all happen.– Hetty McMillan
I enjoy Mighty Mondays because it is a nice reminder of that nothing should hold you back from anything, and all it is is just more of a challenge. It inspired me to make my dreams bigger. – Anna White
I personally like Mighty Mondays because it shows that if all the disadvantaged people portrayed are successful, therefore you can be so too. – Thomas Malavumthitta
I like Mighty Mondays because they make me learn something new and unique everyday. They also have really interesting story’s that are surprising like the girl who can drive a plane with her feet while she has no arms. I also like the other story with the boy who’s amazing at soccer and is in the varsity soccer team even though he only has one leg. That’s why I like the Mighty Mondays. – Jorge Maldonado
I do not like the mighty. I love the mighty Mondays! They are so inspiring and heart warming. Especially, when you see someone following their dream. It basically says, “THINGS AREN’T IMPOSSIBLE”. Many things may say “I’m impossible” but they only say that because they are telling you, “I’m imPOSSIBLE”. Just says Im twice. Haha. That’s why. – Keda Woods-Akins
I like Might Monday because the videos are really cool and interesting. There are so many people that overcome their disabilities and do what they love. – Sarah Stone
I like the mighty because it is inspirational and shows how some people face difficulties much greater than ours. – Mariya Teslya
I enjoy Mighty Monday because it is a good start to our science class on monday and makes me think differently on things like beauty and disabilities. – Nic Del Priore
I like it because it is inspiring and really cool to see people overcome difficulties. – Chloe Porigow
Because they have changed my point of view on the disabled and some of the stories are very heartwarming and sweet. – Tara Ford
I like mighty monday because I it really inspirational and it makes me feel great, because if they can overcome a lot I can overcome things to. – Kyle Woodring
I enjoy watching mighty mondays because it brightens up my monday. It is always so wonderful to hear a happy story about someone who has progressed in a great way or had something great happen to them. Thank you for sharing:) – Delainey Sheehan
I like Mighty Mondays because I like people achieve their dreams even though people say they can’t do it. – Joe Mingione
I like mighty monday because it is really up lifting. – Maggie Kane
I enjoy mighty mondays because they make me feel lucky for what i have and it makes my day to watch how these people are still happy even with disabilities. – Liv DiLascia
I like to watch mighty mondays because they bring joy to my days, make me feel greatful for the way I am, and inspire me to reach my dreams no matter what. – Molly Spaeth
I like Mighty Mondays because, it makes my mondays happier. Every monday we learn a new story about someone who has a disability, but overcomes it, and does great things in their life. For example, Jessica Cox was born with out arms, but she didn’t let that stop her from learning how to drive, or fly a plane! – Margaux Vaccari
I like mighty mondays because it shows me people who have had a very hard time in life and tells me that while I have problems, there are other people in the world with much more significant ones. It also shows very nice people who are willing to help people with disabilities or other problems which makes me want to try to do something to help people. – Koh Kobayashi
The reason i like Mighty Mondays is because it shows how you don’t need the quality’s everybody else have to be happy such as seeing or hearing. It also shows that to be happy all you have to do is stay positive and keep a good attitude. Mighty Mondays also shows me that every one is unqiue and special in the there own ways no matter what anybody says. – Mekhi Samb (Note from teacher: This might be the most Mekhi has written for me all year!!)
Twelve years ago, Paula Strawn opened her door in Redondo Beach, California, to find her two daughters’ former first grade teacher, Kathy Everett.
On that afternoon, Everett stood outside with her own daughter and granddaughter, who was wearing a DOC band — a head-shaping baby helmet for children with plagiocephaly, sometimes known as flat-head syndrome.
Everett, who in the past had invited Strawn to help with art projects in her classroom, looked frustrated. She pointed to the DOC band.
“Paint this ugly thing!” she said. Strawn did. And she didn’t just throw a layer of paint on and call it a day.
When a local cranial reconstruction professional, Kevin Bitting, saw the baby’s helmet, he convinced Strawn to send him business cards and flyers so he could show his clients. The rest, Strawn says, is history — she’s been creating wild, fun and imaginative designs for baby helmets and leg braces ever since. She calls her business Lazardo Art.
“[Parents] don’t want others to see a medical problem,” Strawn told The Mighty in an email. “They want them to see a beautiful baby… Every baby deserves to be adored and made much of, not to be an object of pity.”
Recently, Strawn says she’s experiencing her 15 minutes of fame. Her work regularly pops up on Reddit, and a feature on the Huffington Post last month has boosted business. She receives “zillions” of requests from parents around the world each week and spends all day painting helmets. But she doesn’t view her job as work. To her, it’s fun. And it’s a way make a difference.
“It’s all about the family, the parents, the siblings,” Strawn told The Mighty. “It’s all about them and what will make them smile when they look at the adorable baby in their lives who just happens to be wearing a helmet.”
“Did I tell you that I love my work?” she added. “I really, really do.”