Why He’s Asking Strangers on the Street About Helmets

To the kids (and adults) without helmets:

Going for a bike ride? Headed to the skate park? Jumping on the back of a Harley? Think twice, my friends, no matter how old or young, or big or small you are. I’m here to share with you a personal story, one that will hopefully inspire you to put on that helmet before you go on your next ride.

I’m a religion teacher at a church near my home in Munster, Indiana, and at this church is where I met a little boy named Cody, and his big sister, Korey. At the time, both the kids were very young, and it was one of my first years teaching. I could tell from the moment I met these two adorable kids, they were going to go places and do things in life.

What I didn’t know is that it would take a massive catastrophe for their new journey to begin.

One night, early in June of 2014, Cody and his dad were out for a bike ride near a skate park in their home town. Cody decided he wanted to try going (slowly) down a small ramp. First few seconds: fine. Next: boom. Cody’s front tire on his bicycle had slipped off the ramp, and Cody toppled over. He wasn’t in much pain, but his mom ran to check on him anyways, because he suffered from asthma. Then, into the car, and to the nearest urgent care center they went, just to be sure nothing was wrong.

Sure enough, as the doctors looked Cody over, they noticed several fractures in his neck, back, and ribs, and one rather major fracture in his skull. Cody wasn’t in much pain at the time, but the next thing the family heard took the wind from their sails. Cody needed brain surgery, as he had suffered from a Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI). Over the next six days Cody stayed at their local hospital receiving the care and attention he so desperately needed.

All of this, just because he wasn’t wearing a helmet? Yes. All of this.

Word of Cody’s injury spread quickly throughout the area by way of mouth, and of course, Facebook. Soon after the accident, the family started two Facebook pages: Cody’s Medical Updates and Helmets for Cody. (Please visit the second Facebook page to learn more about the accident.)

The next thing on Cody’s to-do list will warm your heart.

After all of the surgeries, hospital stays and pain complications, Cody wanted to help others. His goal was to make sure that no other child, nor adult, for that matter, would have to go through all of the terrible things he did. He started approaching strangers, people on the streets, and sharing his story, and asking people to wear helmets to protect themselves from these types of dangerous incidents.

I’ve now taken it upon myself to help spread awareness for TBIs and Cody’s story.

I’m sure he’d love to see some new photos of people wearing their helmets because they heard about his story, and want to make a difference, on his Facebook page, Helmets for Cody.

He’s a 9-year-old boy making a big impact on the world. The least we could do is help brighten his smile, and put hope in his heart, so that kids in the future won’t go through all that he did.

If you, or a loved one you know, do not have a helmet, and plan to ride anything other than a car in the near future, PLEASE get a helmet, and wear it. It could very well save your life.

Post your photos to Facebook with the hashtag: #HelmetsForCody and tell them Katie sent you! It would mean so much to me, and even more to my little friend Cody, and his family, if you would do this for us!

Thank you, and remember to wear your green next March to show your support for TBI research and brain injury awareness!

The Mighty is asking the following: Can you describe the moment someone changed the way you think about a disability or disease? If you’d like to participate, please send a blog post to community@themighty.com. Please include a photo for the piece, a photo of yourself and 1-2 sentence bio.

Want to help celebrate the human spirit? Like us on Facebook.

And sign up for what we hope will be your favorite thing to read at night.


When My Service Dog Realized I Was Crying

Emily Grad One of my favorite stories happened just this past winter during one of our horrible snowstorms. I’m sure you all remember those as well as I do! Anybody else looking forward to spring?

The snowstorm was just hitting us; it was starting to come down pretty hard. I wanted to take my service dog, Carmel, out before it would become impossible. I have a pooper scooper system, and I was trying to clean up after her when the stick spun and everything fell out. I’m a patient person, so I tried once more, and it happened again. Now I was getting frustrated. Carmel isn’t used to the snow; she was born in California. So I decided to bring her inside and have one of my aides hold the leash so I could go try again.

I rolled back outside; at this point, the snow was really coming down. I went where I’d left everything and realized the pooper scooper stick was now on the ground, and I couldn’t reach it. I had to go back inside, get the dog and roll back out. Carmel handed me the stick, I picked everything up, and you know what happened? The stick fell again. I was officially angry, wet and aggravated. My chair was getting wet, Carmel was getting wet, and I still couldn’t pick up after her. I began to do what anyone else would do — I cried. Bawled, actually.

I use a mask in the winter fro my asthma, and Carmel can’t stand it. I’ve worked with her on it, and she’s gotten better, but every time I put it on you can tell she gets uncomfortable; she doesn’t quite understand why my face “changes.”

So at this point, I had this mask on and I was crying hysterically and the snow was making everything a mess. Miserable. Suddenly, I felt something on my face. It was Carmel, upon my wheelchair. She was pawing at my face, even though that mask was on. She was trying to get me to stop crying. I started to cry more… and laugh. At the same time!

Service dogs help change peoples lives. I’ve had Carmel for four years now. Not only does she know and complete more than 50 different commands (like picking up dropped items and opening doors), she’s also a great emotional support. She makes me laugh and keeps me “on my toes” every day. She’s a joy in my life and I also met my husband, Frank, through Canine Companions for Independence. His service dog, Bastien, is a wonderful helper as well.

An added bonus is this: when I’m out in public, people don’t see my power chair anymore; they see my gorgeous labrador by my side.

Emily 355

Want to end the stigma around disability? Like us on Facebook.

And sign up for what we hope will be your favorite thing to read at night.

This Dancer Won’t Hide the Facial Birthmark an Agent Suggested She Photoshop Out

Cassandra Naud was born to stand out.

Screen Shot 2015-04-02 at 11.23.52 AM
Via Instagram

On her right cheek just under her eye, Naud has a large birthmark covered in hair. When she was born, her parents were given the option to remove it, but doing so would have risked badly scarring her face, The Daily Mail reported. They decided against it, and Naud says she’s grateful for that decision.

Screen Shot 2015-04-02 at 11.28.26 AM
Via Instagram

It’s part of who I am,” Naud told the outlet. “Having a birthmark distinguishes me and I don’t feel that it has ever held me back.”

Only once, while in high school, did she briefly consider removing it but changed her mind.

Screen Shot 2015-04-02 at 11.23.13 AM
Via Instagram

The 22-year-old from Alberta, Canada, moved to Los Angeles to study at the American Musical and Dramatic Academy, according to her Facebook page. She now works as a professional dancer.

A casting agent once told Naud to photoshop the mark out of her headshots, but she ignored the advice. Despite working in an industry where appearance is held to ridiculous standards, she’s had professional success and feels that her birthmark helps her stand out in a crowd.

People should appreciate their individuality,” she told The Daily Mail. “Times are changing, so don’t worry about looking normal. Don’t let bullies stop you and be proud of your uniqueness.”

Check out more of her stunning photos below:

Screen Shot 2015-04-02 at 11.23.27 AM
Via Instagram
Screen Shot 2015-04-02 at 11.24.06 AM
Via Instagram
Screen Shot 2015-04-02 at 11.24.47 AM
Via Instagram
Screen Shot 2015-04-02 at 11.29.42 AM
Via Instagram
Screen Shot 2015-04-02 at 11.24.26 AM
Via Instagram
Screen Shot 2015-04-02 at 11.25.01 AM
Via Instagram

h/t A Plus

Want to help celebrate the human spirit? Like us on Facebook.

And sign up for what we hope will be your favorite thing to read at night.

The Ways My Nonverbal Son Communicates Without Words

He doesn’t speak the words.

He brings you your things from a drawer,
One by one.
He knows whose things belong to whom.
He leaves your shirt at the gate
Through which you will return to him,
When you go away.

My heart feels like a cloud before rain,
That is full of love, not sorrow,
Love for his sun-ray smile,
And his gapped-pearl teeth,
For his sing-song little words,
Golden hair, his
Shapes and numbers.
For his constant touch.

He is not what you think
When you see the word, the label –
And his mind is luminous and gorgeous,
Clever and unusual,
Sweet and funny,
More like a box of rainbow
Than a thread neatly spooled, just one color.

He doesn’t speak the words
— I love you —
(and he loves us with his kisses and snuggles,
because he is not what you think, no
checklist of deficiencies and lackings)
But he knows them when you speak them to him,
First thing in the morning,
Last thing at night. He said ma-ma once,
In the dark of a night of when he was only just one,
Little fingers stretched out to me, seeking my skin.
It’s taken nearly 18 months more
To begin to call me a word of his own,
Meeting me halfway there
And I think of old Ma Kettle, with her brood of
Children and her dishevelled hair, and I smile,
Thanks, Boodi.

He doesn’t speak the words —
He pinches and kicks and rages right now,
Striking out when he can’t communicate any other way,
Because communicating is so hard for him,
My bouncing, flapping, spinning, laughing boy,
And I have to learn these new lessons
Of patience and composure,
For real now, not
The passive aggressive seething under a calm surface
Of old — I have to remember just how much
He needs me, and how hard the world is
For him to feel his way through.
I have to remember to control my impulse to yell back,
To instead reach out, and in,
To draw him out of the vortex
And hold his hand,
Quiet these wild hearts of ours
With safe places instead.

Some words he doesn’t need.

image1 (2)

This post originally appeared on “Sand Has No Home.”

Want to end the stigma around disability? Like us on Facebook.

And sign up for what we hope will be your favorite thing to read at night.

I Go Back to Our Diagnosis Day in My Mind, But Here’s Why I Don’t Stay Long

TJ was diagnosed with autism in August of 2002.

It’s easy to go back to that sad, scary day. In an instant I am sitting on that couch with Sean, hearing those words, “He has autism.” And in an instant I feel that mix of pain, relief and complete grief.

I felt pain and grief for dreams we had to say goodbye to, and for a future we envisioned that was not to be. But I felt relief because finally, after months of knowing something wasn’t right, we could begin to help our boy.

Although I can be back there in an instant, with one single thought, I don’t stay for long. Now, a world away, we have a very capable almost 15-year-old (“A month and 3 days until my birthday mom!”).

He is in high school.

He gets himself from class to class.

He studies.

He does homework.

He bathes himself.

He dresses himself.

He has friends.  Good ones.

He texts with his brother. They razz each other back and forth.

He loves raunchy movies. Not too raunchy (think “Dodgeball”).

He loves to repeat the worst lines of those raunchy movies.

He laughs.

He smiles.

He loves.

He is TJ. He is his own growing, changing kid. He is amazing.

So while we think of that day almost 13 years ago, we don’t stay there for very long because there is no need to. He is forming his own future, with our help. And we can’t wait to see what happens next.

A version of this post originally appeared on I Don’t Have a Job

Want to end the stigma around disability? Like us on Facebook.

And sign up for what we hope will be your favorite thing to read at night.

The Inventive Way This Artist Proves His Disability Is No Limitation

Michael Hanrahan is an artist with a painting method you may not have considered before.

Screen Shot 2015-04-02 at 10.22.02 AM
Via Facebook

Hanrahan, 29, has cerebral palsy. He cannot speak and uses a wheelchair, according to The Telegraph. But the artist has devised inventive ways to surpass his body’s limitations — he uses mops, attaches paint tubes to sticks and fastens paint brushes to his helmet to produce his works of art.

Screen Shot 2015-04-02 at 10.30.11 AM
Via Facebook
Screen Shot 2015-04-02 at 10.21.48 AM
Via Facebook

The London-based painter, also known as “Stigy,” gets inspiration from abstract artists like Jackson Pollock and Banksy, according to his website. His subject matter covers a broad range including landscapes, favorite bands, the concept of color and a sport he plays called boccia. He also turns to art when he feels frustrated about the way people perceive his disability.

“Frustration” via Facebook
Screen Shot 2015-04-02 at 11.32.49 AM
“Boccia” via Facebook

Social media platforms have helped Hanrahan achieve worldwide success. He started receiving commissions for his work as soon as he began posting pictures of his canvasses on Facebook. He’s since created a website, a Twitter account and an online portfolio. Now, his paintings sell online for hundreds of dollars, and he receives commissions from as far away as Italy and Hong Kong, all thanks to his social media presence.

For Hanrahan, social media has offered more than just a successful career — it’s provided him with a forum to communicate with others and make friends. “It turned my life around,” he told The Telegraph. “[It] turned my social life around.”

A Sunset Over a Beach
“Sunset Over a Beach” via Facebook
Screen Shot 2015-04-02 at 11.49.22 AM
“Cash In Then Cash Out” via Facebook
Under the Sea
“Under the Sea” via Facebook
“Beach” via Facebook

To see more of Hanrahan’s paintings and to purchase his work, visit his website and Facebook page.

Want to end the stigma around disability? Like us on Facebook.

And sign up for what we hope will be your favorite thing to read at night.

Real People. Real Stories.

150 Million

We face disability, disease and mental illness together.