“This may sound crazy,” Nigel Lythgoe, producer and judge of “So You Think You Can Dance,” told dancer Franchesca Bass after her audition, “but maybe the alopecia is the making of you because you are so totally unique.”

Bass, 18, who lost all of her hair to alopecia areata when she was in sixth grade, auditioned in Chicago for SYTYCD’s 11th season — and went straight through to the next round in Las Vegas.

“Hair is just an asset,” Bass said before her audtion. “It’s not something that I actually need to be successful.”

She proves just that in her audition:

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In the last two years, John Simon, Tony Cerame and Jason Struttmann have soberly seen Creed, the Backstreet Boys and — after tonight — Cher in concert. Why? To raise awareness and money for multiple sclerosis (MS), of course. Humor, sarcasm and all-around absurdity is the best way to fight the debilitating disease, they think.

In 2008, Simon visited a neurologist after experiencing dizziness and double vision. When he was then diagnosed with MS, “it was completely terrifying,” he told The Mighty. Still, when he sent an email out to his friends and family about the diagnosis, he made jokes — not to trivialize the disease but to lighten the mood.

That email’s tone struck a chord with Cerame — how could he use humor to raise MS awareness? The answer, he found, was to promise to attend horrible concerts if people met fundraising goals. He wondered, how much money would people donate to get him, Simon and Struttmann to attend a Creed concert — something they all imagined to be terrible — completely sober? One thousand dollars, at least, they thought and set up a CrowdRise campaign. In two days, they broke that goal, raising more than $3,000.

“The initial engagement and support for it really made us think that we’d tapped into something,” Cerame said. “We’re sort of accidental philanthropists.”

With Simon, they set out to attend more concerts. Up next: The Backstreet Boys — the three attended the boy band’s concert with spray tans and frosted tips and raised more than $4,000 on CrowdRise.


Next, the three will attend a Cher concert — dressed in drag. Already, they’ve raised more than $6,000.

“None of us have any malice in our hearts for Cher,” Simon told The Mighty. “The project has grown into, ‘What can we do to make people pay attention and want to engage? We want to reach people who don’t necessarily have any direct ties to MS.”


Simon, who’s thankful that medication has helped keep his MS symptoms at bay, of course wants to raise money for research, but he and his friends are mostly focused on raising awareness. He knows that a lot of people don’t understand what MS is.

“Maybe, through what we’re doing, someone will learn and be able to empathize with a person with MS,” he told The Mighty.

Cher4MS benefits the National Multiple Sclerosis Society Gateway Area Chapter. If you’d like to make a donation, head here.

Photographer Andrew George was standing at a memorial service for his friend’s late mother when the idea first came to him. He wondered, while marveling at her friends’ and family’s genuine love for her, what made her life extraordinary. What had she done to bring out such raw emotions in people?

“She was exceptional in that she emanated joy and never seemed to show fear or self-consciousness,” George, 43, told The Mighty in an email. “Yet, regrettably, she was no one you’d ever learn about if you didn’t know her because her material accomplishments did not include fame.”

George wanted to meet others like his friend’s mom — exceptional people who seemed unexceptional at first glance. He wanted to hear what wisdom they had. He reached out to hospitals in the Los Angeles area to see if he could interview people in palliative care facing serious to chronic illnesses. Most doctors said no. But Dr. Marwa Kilani at Providence Holy Cross Medical Center said yes. With permission, George began photographing and interviewing patients in a series called “Right Before I Die.”

“There was so much of value we could all learn — healthy or ill — from the authentic, hard-won wisdom of these men and women,” George told The Mighty. “And yet, society would deem them unremarkable for, like most of us, they lead lives out of the spotlight of media attention and won’t be mentioned in history books.”

Below are a few of George’s portraits and excerpts from his interviews. Visit the “Right Before I Die” website to view the entire series. George notes that he does not include each person’s disease or career on purpose.

“These men and women were no different than any of us, and sooner or later, we would all be experiencing what they were,” George explained. “[Their stories had] a profound richness, poignancy and simplicity that illustrated so clearly how we could learn what we all seek: to live more fulfilling and loving lives.”

“I feel that life is very pretty. I’ve always liked to work, fight and well, for me, life is very pretty.” — Sara


“I feel calm, at ease, because I already know I am going, so every night I tell God, ‘You know what you are doing.’ I’m not scared of dying; I already lived many happy years.” — Josefina


“Life is what you make of it here on earth and a lot of the times I haven’t made the most of it, but a lot of the times I have.” — Chuck


“I’m lucky to have a positive outlook — it’s harder to not have one because then you have nothing to look forward to.” — John


“I hope I’ll be remembered as someone who doesn’t give up.”
— Ediccia


“If I could go back to any time in my life? Right this minute.”  — Irene


“You have a one-way ticket. Don’t waste it!”  — Abel

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“The meaning of life is to give happiness to the human being that you love.” — Donald



Time to start taking gym selfies! Bear with us.

Anytime Fitness, a gym in New South Wales, Australia, has found a great reason to snap a picture of yourself mid-workout — to help raise multiple sclerosis (MS) awareness. The gym challenged fitness fanatics to “Kiss Goodbye to MS” by uploading gym selfies to Facebook or Instagram. The goal is to spread the word about MS, a disease that affects the brain and spinal chord, and ultimately raise money for research.

Anytime Fitness manager Kiera Pyne, whose sister, Kristen Harmer, was recently diagnosed with MS, told The Cessnock Advertiser that in one month the selfie campaign raised more than $1,500.

“It’s times like these that you realize how many kind and generous people there are out there,” she told the paper.

Selfies can be silly, we know, but raising awareness is seriously important. So, we’re on board. Check out some of Anytime Fitness’ submissions below, and if you’re feeling up to it, snap your own gym selfie.

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When 84-year-old Melvyn Amrine went missing near his home in Little Rock, Ark., in early May, his wife, Doris, called the police. She was especially worried because her husband has Alzheimer’s disease — his memory has been slowly fading for the last three years or so.

But when police found him two miles from his home, he knew exactly where he was going and why he was going there — he needed to get Mother’s Day flowers for his wife. The officers couldn’t bring him home without helping him complete that mission.

CBS’ Steve Hartman caught up later with the Amrines to hear how the heartwarming story ended.

“It’s special,” Doris Amrine tells him in the video below, “because even though the mind doesn’t remember everything, the heart remembers.”

Watch their full story:

Meet “ELO,” a teddy bear that allows young patients in Hospital Amaral Carvalho in Brazil to hear the voices of loved ones they don’t get to see every day. Because of their conditions, these kids have very little contact with the outside world.

In the video below, each kid says who they miss the most while undergoing longterm treatment. Then, that person (or persons) records an audio note with messaging service WhatsApp, which connects to a player placed inside a teddy bear sent to the hospital.

Watch as each patient hears ELO’s messages for the first time. You don’t need to speak their language to translate this kind of love.

Real People. Real Stories.

150 Million

We face disability, disease and mental illness together.