These Small Acts of Kindness From Strangers Got Me Through the Tough Times

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At the age of 4 months my beautiful baby girl was diagnosed with agenesis of the corpus callosum, retinal lesions, infantile spasms and developmental delays, which all together is Aicardi syndrome.

Life became more challenging in an instant.

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Over the past 22-plus years, as I grumbled my way through crowds at the mall and cried inside at amusement parks, there has usually been someone who extended an unexpected kindness, reminding me others see my daughter’s value and recognize our family’s challenges.  Sometimes it’s as simple as stopping to say hello to Hillary, unfazed by her nonverbal answer, or opening a door as we approach pushing her wheelchair.

For her last birthday we took her to a local street fair where she was showered with balloons and trinkets from vendors and community organizations there.  One time we were traveling and a woman stopped at our restaurant table to tell me what a good mother I was. It was a gesture so simple, yet so powerful and needed at the time. I still tear up when I think of it.

When Hillary was 7 we were at the mall shopping in the Disney store and unbeknownst to us we were being watched. We exited the store and began walking through the mall when we heard a man calling to us. We stopped and turned around as he approached, holding out a small snow globe with Cinderella’s glass slipper inside.  He said he had been watching us in the store and Hillary had touched his heart.  The snow globe sits on her dresser where every morning and night I am reminded of how kind some strangers can be.

It was around the same time that we went on a Girl Scout family trip to an amusement park.  As we were sitting on a bench with Hillary next to us while her older sister and her friends went on rides we were approached by a small group of giggling teenagers.  One of them held out a red stuffed dragon toy to Hillary and asked us if it was OK to give it to her.  It also is in her room where I see it every day.

Such incidences of random kindness are kept in my memory like treasures in a box.  I examine them on those days when I need an extra reminder that there is so much good in the world.

For all of February, The Mighty is asking its readers the following: Describe the moment a stranger — or someone you don’t know very well — showed you or a loved one incredible love. No gesture is too small! If you’d like to participate, please send a blog post to [email protected] Please  include a photo for the piece, a photo of yourself and 1-2 sentence bio.

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

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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.

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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.

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

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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.

“What?”

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

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Special Pair of Jeans Finds a New Audience

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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.

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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.”

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

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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.

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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

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