He's Nonverbal, Has Limited Mobility. And He Runs His Own Successful Business.

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James Hall, better known as “Monnie” by friends and family, lives with cerebral palsy. The 55-year-old, who communicates nonverbally and has limited use of his hands, started his own business making beautiful wreaths out of mesh netting and craft supplies.

Wreaths solo
Photo courtesy of Brittney Ledford

Hall has always enjoyed working creatively. Before launching his business, he made wreaths as gifts for family and friends. Then, in August 2014, he decided to take his passion a step further. He drew up a business plan with his caregiver, Tanasha Taylor, designed business cards and created products to show people.

Hall and Taylor began promoting his business through his family and friends as well as the employees at Mosaic, the assisted living center in Urbandale, Iowa, where Hall has lived for more than a decade.

Wreaths with Tanasha
Hall with Tanasha Taylor, his caregiver and business associate. Photo courtesy of Brittney Ledford

One year later, Hall is involved in every aspect of his business, including shopping for supplies, making the products, and, after ensuring everything meets his standards, distributing them. He makes the wreathes on his own, with Taylor helping him on the details he’s unable to do himself. He recently developed a professional website, Monnie’s Wreaths, which he hopes will help him to eventually expand his business all over the country.

“My dream is to be on ‘The Ellen DeGeneres Show‘ and show people there’s [no reason] you can’t achieve your goals,” Hall told The Mighty in an email.

Wreath booth
Hall at his first public booth in Wes Des Moines, Iowa. Photo courtesy of Brittney Ledford

More than anything, Hall hopes his wreath business will help people to focus on what he can do rather than on what he can’t. He hopes his story inspires other people with disabilities to feel similarly about themselves.

“Don’t focus on your disabilities — you have plenty of abilities!” Hall, who’s also the chairman of Mosaic’s self-advocacy group, told The Mighty. “I believe everyone should be an advocate for themselves, whether they have a disability or not.”

Take a look at some of Monnie’s wreath designs below: 

BurlapSpring

Christmas

Halloween

StPattys

Valentines

Learn more about Hall’s story and his wreath business in the video below.

Wreath photos courtesy of Monnie’s Wreaths.

To see more of Monnie’s wreaths and learn how you can purchase one, visit his website.

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To the Waitress Who Stepped Out Of Her Comfort Zone for My Son

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Dear Kira,

I don’t know you and you don’t know me, but today you affected my life.

It was just another Thursday night, soccer practice for my oldest daughter. I was running late (which seems to be the story of my life), and in the rush to get all three kids buckled into the car, I left my son’s wheelchair in the garage at home. I realized it halfway to the soccer field but wasn’t concerned. I was planning on going back home for dinner after dropping off my daughter.

But luck would have it that on the way to practice, my 4-year-old announced she had to go to the bathroom, “bad.” Oh that Charlotte, she always waits until the last minute, I guess like someone else I know.

I dropped off my soccer player and went to Skyline (a Cincinnati chili chain). I decided we’d have dinner there so my daughter could use the restroom.

With my 6-year-old son on my hip and my 4-year-old in tandem, we went inside. I couldn’t bring my little man into the bathroom with us because I didn’t want to put him on the floor. Instead, I set him in a booth where he would be in my view. I stood outside the bathroom with the door propped open so I could keep watch on her and him at the same time. I kept telling her to hurry because I was afraid my son would try getting down on the floor, his favorite place to lay. Since I needed to get back to him, I didn’t wash my hands, nor my daughter’s.

When I asked if you had hand sanitizer, you toured the place but couldn’t find any. So then you stepped out of your comfort zone and offered to do something most people wouldn’t do.

“I’ll sit with him while you both go wash your hands.”

I had to take a second to make sure of what I really heard before joyfully accepting your invitation. I knew this was likely a once-in-a-lifetime experience: a stranger in a restaurant offering to sit alone with my son.

A waitress holding hands with a boy who has cerebral palsy.

You could see he couldn’t hold his head up, that his hands turned in from cerebral palsy. You were able to tell he couldn’t talk and expected he might even drool. You offered anyway. And even though we were gone for less than a minute, you took that time to hold his hand and talk to him knowing he couldn’t talk back. For a minute you felt what it was like to be him, what it was like to be me.

Thank you for not being scared, for pushing away any anxiety you might have had. Thank you for treating my son like a little boy instead of a little boy that scared you. Thank you for refreshing my vision and reminding me that empathy is all around, often in the places I would least expect it.

Sincerely,
Jack’s Mom

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. 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. Check out our Share Your Story page for more about our submission guidelines.

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When a Coach Made This Simple Gesture for My Son With Special Needs

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They couldn’t be any more different.

Coach and my son.

Coach spends his afternoons and weekends instructing and developing high school athletes into skilled baseball players. It’s his passion. He spent so much of his own life on the baseball diamond, fueling his own competitive aspirations.

He was really good — so good he even managed at the apex of his career to make it to “the show” with the Cincinnati Reds, as Crash Davis referred to the big leagues in the movie “Bull Durham.”

He works endlessly now with young athletes, honing their skills and cultivating their talents.

Every day he challenges them, pushes them and encourages them with the same competitive fire he brought to his own game.

He’s watched so many of the players go on to further their careers playing baseball in college. That has to be so satisfying to him as a coach.

My son isn’t one of those skilled athletes. My son isn’t even one of those players.

Cerebral palsy, seizures and autism have denied my son any opportunity life may have had for him in that arena. I’ve long come to terms with that fact. I’ve laid down my fatherly dreams of playing catch with my son, shooting hoops in the driveway with him or even swinging a bat together.

Those were exceedingly hard dreams to let go of as a father. A father who spent his own childhood always in the gym or on the field, playing some form of sports. A father who played basketball for his own father in high school.

I still remember when I earned my first varsity letter jacket. I don’t think I took it off for the first year. I remember being measured for my first high school uniform and proudly declaring I wanted number 22.

My son will never have those same experiences. He doesn’t care. He doesn’t feel any remorse or longing whatsoever. Only his dad does.

Everyone in our little town knows the coach they see in the afternoons and on weekends.

Very few people know the coach I see from 8 to 3 every school day.

Very few people know that Coach is one of my son’s classroom assistants in his comprehensive development class. He’s the one primarily working with my son all day long.

Coach meets us at the car in the mornings to assist us in getting our son into school with his mobility issues. He works with him throughout the day, assisting him hand-over-hand with every task, every function and every aspect of his day. He then helps us get my son back to the car and loaded up at the end of the day.

He’s my son’s eyes, his hands, his feet, and rest assured, he has his back.

I don’t worry about my son too much when he’s at school because Coach watches out for him.

What a contrast it must be, working with my mobility-impaired, cognitively challenged son during the day, and then working with skilled young athletes in the afternoons.

Recently, we all read about the high school student with Down syndrome and autism who was forced to quit wearing the varsity letter jacket that his parents had purchased for him. “He’s not on the team,” they cried. “He shouldn’t get to wear the jacket.”

I understand both sides of the argument. But as a special needs dad, my heart broke for that young man and his family.

I was reminded of that this very week.

As Coach walked my son out to the waiting car, he leaned in and simply said, “My boy needs a shirt.”

“My boy.” (Oh, how I love that!)

Courtesy of Coach, my son came home from school the next day with his own Cavalier baseball T-shirt.

No, it’s not a uniform. But we don’t need uniforms to show we’re on the same team.

A simple gesture but a powerful statement. A gift that is priceless to me.

How do you put a price on dignity, significance, character and honor?

Sometimes the best lessons a coach can teach don’t involve words. Sometimes, a T-shirt will suffice.

We’re all on the same team.

Life lessons for all of us, courtesy of Coach.

Jeff Davidson the mighty.1-001

Follow this journey on Goodnight Superman

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This 8-Year-Old With Cerebral Palsy Is Launching a Modeling Career

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Emily Prior was flipping through a catalog with her mom one day when she noticed something alarming.

“Why aren’t there children like me in these catalogs?” she asked her mom.

Emily, 8, has cerebral palsy as a result of being born three months prematurely, the Mirror reported. She’s been an ambassador for disability for a long time in her hometown of Perth, Australia. Having herself appeared in promotional materials for the Ability Centre, magazines, calendars and newspapers, Emily was puzzled as to why there were no models with disabilities in the catalogs she read.

Her mom Jen Prior didn’t quite know how to answer the question.

“[It] was hard to answer truthfully, as realistically, society doesn’t see disability as beautiful,” Prior told The Mighty in an email. “While I certainly don’t leave it to the media alone to shape my daughters own thoughts, self-esteem and ideas about her body image, what hope [does she have to form] a positive one when she never gets to see people like her being represented?”

With that, Emily set out to fill a void in the modeling industry. She and her mom set up a photoshoot with Stefan Gosatti, a fashion and event photographer.

Stefan Gosatti1
Photo credit Stefan Gosatti
Stefan Gosatti
Photo credit Stefan Gosatti
Screen Shot 2015-07-28 at 3.37.29 PM
Photo credit Stefan Gosatti

Quickly thereafter, she signed with Bump Models, a modeling agency based in Sydney, Australia. She hasn’t had any work with the agency yet, largely due to the fact that the agency is located far from where they live, Prior told The Mighty.

“I also believe that our disability is an issue,” she added, as to why Emily hasn’t worked with the agency. “This is what we want to change.”

More than anything, Prior hopes Emily’s presence in the media will help her daughter grow up to be a person who’s proud of her disability. And, they’d like to see other children with disabilities represented in the media.

“We also hope people without disabilities can really see how beautiful someone truly is and that their disability, their illness, is only a part of them,” Prior told The Mighty. “The more we talk and see disability, the easier it is for acceptance and tolerance of the community and society we live in.”

Take a look at more of Emily’s beautiful photos below.

Emily Pior
Photo credit Lauren Castledine, The Sunday Times
Screen Shot 2015-07-29 at 12.12.31 PM
Photo courtesy of Jen Prior
Screen Shot 2015-07-28 at 3.32.51 PM
From Emily Prior’s Facebook page
Screen Shot 2015-07-28 at 3.39.02 PM
From Emily Prior’s Facebook page
EmilyPrior
Emily and her family. Photo credit Joshua D’hondt
EmilyPrior1
Emily and her family. Photo credit Joshua D’hondt

To keep up with Emily and see more photos, visit her Facebook, Twitter and Instagram pages.

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Watch This 8-Year-Old Boy With Cerebral Palsy Have an Epic Finish Line Moment

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As 8-year-old neared the end of the race, he heard the raucous cheers from the crowd of supporters surrounding him. Then, just yards from the finish line, he pushed his walking frame away and, despite falling and having to get back up again, finished the race unaided.

Bailey, who has cerebral palsy, completed the Castle Howard Triathlon in North Yorkshire, England, on July 26, The Yorkshire Post reported. The event included a 100-meter lake swim, 4,000-meter bike ride and 1,300-meter run — no easy feat for any child.

Bailey has always been very determined. If he wants to do something he will find a way to do it, even if it is not the conventional way,” Bailey’s mother, Julie, told The Yorkshire Post. “We have always tried to make sure that if there is something he wants to do, there is no such word as ‘can’t.’”

Although Bailey was the last one to finish the race, hundreds of fans and spectators waited around to cheer him on towards the finish line. His family was deeply touched by the support of everyone in attendance.

Watch Bailey finish the race in the video below:

 

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What You Shouldn’t Say After We Tell You Our Daughter Has Cerebral Palsy

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“Hey sweetie, what happened to you?” We hear people innocently ask our 4-year-old daughter that question sometimes. Occasionally, they cut Catori out all together and ask us directly. It’s not a frequent occurrence, but it normally happens a few times a month. When we tell people Catori has cerebral palsy as a result of a stroke, they gives us a look of utter disbelief and inevitably always blurt out, “Oh no, I’m so sorry.”

The thing is, we actually don’t like it when people say they’re sorry. We smile politely and assure them there’s nothing to be sorry about. However, it rubs us the wrong way.

It’s not that we don’t appreciate the sentiment. We realize everyone generally has the best of intentions in saying it. We also understand people don’t expect us to say those words when they see Catori, because she has mild cerebral palsy, more specifically she has left hemiparesis, which affects only her left side. By most appearances she’s what many consider your “typical” 4-year-old kid. She speaks and acts what medical professionals have deemed at an age-appropriate level. She walks, she runs and she plays with other kids her age.

So when people hear the words “stroke” and “cerebral palsy,” there’s a natural disbelief and the words “I’m sorry” fly out their mouths. They really are sorry that such an innocent, perfect little child has to deal with such a diagnosis. Some are just plain sorry they even asked the question.

What many of them never realized is babies and children can have strokes just as adults do. According to the American Stroke Association’s website, “stroke occurs in one out of every 4,000 live births” in the U.S., and “between 20 percent and 40 percent of children die as a result of a stroke.” Those are some scary numbers. For many people, even if they are unaware of those numbers, imagining such a scenario can be overwhelming for parents who have expectations and dreams for their child’s future. A normal response to hearing that another child you just met had a stroke is probably going to be “I’m sorry.” But as Catori’s father I sometimes just want to scream, “Don’t be sorry! We’re not!”

That’s right, we’re not sorry Catori has CP. We wish she didn’t have a stroke. We went through an emotional roller coaster after finding out she did. Realizing she had CP and was now labeled as a child with a disability was heart-wrenching at first.

Then we contemplated what the alternative was. Catori had a stroke, something that is fatal to adults and children across the globe every year. She is a survivor! She has gone from not realizing she had a left arm and hand to using it to climb ladders on the playground and opening blankets for her baby dolls. She hugs us every night and tells us how much she loves us. She attends a mainstream preschool and is practicing to play T-ball with her older sister next year.

Sure, she does things a little differently than others. She has also been diagnosed with epilepsy and takes multiple medicines on a daily basis to control the seizures. But she survived a stroke in the middle right cerebral artery of her brain before she was even born. And she’s flourishing! That’s not something to be sorry about, folks. That’s something to be celebrated and embraced.

Please realize we understand and appreciate why people say they’re sorry when they first hear Catori had a stroke and has CP. We’re not angry people do it. We just believe people should think first before asking questions and be prepared for the answers they may hear.

Don’t be shocked when you get an answer you didn’t expect. Be compassionate for sure, but also be aware. We personally appreciate when people follow up our CP answer with questions about the diagnosis and/or therapies.

Not all people in our situation will want to talk about it, though, so be cognizant of that as well. We believe most people will appreciate it if you simply talk to them as adults about the diagnosis and what that means to their family and child.

We tell people Catori wakes up every morning, and she gets to live her life no matter what the day brings. Some days are good. Some days are tougher than others. Other days are filled with only therapy sessions and doctor’s appointments. But she’s alive. Every day we get to see her beautiful, smiling face and the only words we need to say are simply, “Thank you.”

Follow this journey on Catori’s Story — Our Baby Girl’s Journey with Cerebral Palsy.

The Mighty is asking the following: Share with us the moment you stood up for yourself or your child in regards to disability or disease, or a moment you wish you had? 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. Check out our “Share Your Story” page for more about our submission guidelines.

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