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Good Things Happen When You Share a Story on The Mighty

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Six years ago, six stories changed my life. I read them over and over again and by the time I got up from my computer, my perspective was forever altered.

We had just gotten my daughter’s diagnosis. What I found through Google – medical information, research studies and more – did not answer my underlying question: what was she going to be like when she grew up?

Then I found these six stories by parents, each with a photo of their child. They were in Dup15q Alliance’s newsletter. At first, I focused on phrases like “he doesn’t talk or sign” and “autism was becoming more obvious” and “seizures all day” and so many more that frankly scared me. But then I read the stories again and picked up on the voices of these parents. They were proud and strong, light and funny, honest and real.

If they could handle this, why couldn’t my wife and I? The underlying question was no longer what would my daughter be like, but rather what kind of parent could I be?

This is the power of storytelling and why we created The Mighty – to help people facing disabilities, diseases and chronic health conditions.

In just 15 months, our editorial team and growing network of more than a thousand writers have produced stories that have been read more than 50 million times. Nearly 8 million people visited our site just last month. But it’s important to remember that those numbers are real people and those people are feeling real impacts from these stories.

I want to show you just a few of them.

Jean Abbott, one of our contributors, recently posted a message in a private Facebook group we host for contributors that prompted a discussion about what happens as a result of sharing stories on The Mighty. I limited myself to including just 10 of these, but there are so many more. Each person gave me permission to share their response.

Facebook post by Jean Abbott

The link Jean shared is here. The story she brought to us was remarkable. For 30 years, she lived believing she had a form of cerebral palsy. Her doctor then discovered she instead had dopa-responsive dystonia. Nearly all her symptoms disappeared by taking a pill. She later told us that 10 people have since contacted her saying they now have a new diagnosis of DRD, too.

More of our contributors chimed in:

Ali Cummins: I don’t normally venture into writing pieces of a political nature, but I did write two pieces about Early Intervention services in Illinois and Governor Rauner wanting to deny services to certain children to save money. The Mighty was willing to share my story, and as a result, I got a trip to the state capitol to speak in front of the House Human Services Appropriations Committee about the tremendous impact EI has on families and our children. Talk about an awesome and slightly intimidating experience. If it weren’t for The Mighty, I would probably never have been allotted this opportunity. I appreciate that The Mighty took the time to care and give a voice to an important cause.

Lauren Jordan: The biggest impact, I think, is on my boys. TJ, my son with autism, feels empowered by these stories. He says, “We are helping people know what autism is all about, mom. They will know all about kids like me.” My son Peter thinks it opens the readers’ minds and educates others, and hopefully that will make people more understanding towards his brother, and other Mighty kids. To hear them talk about disability and education in such a positive way is like a dream. Thank you for that.

Lauren Casper: Last December The Mighty shared a post I wrote about a Trader Joe’s employee who was so kind and gave me flowers after a trip to the store that was less than pleasant for our family. The post went a bit nuts and actually made its way back to the employee! JoAnn and I are friends now and text back and forth a lot. And The Rachael Ray Show had us on in January to “reunite” since our family had moved away so that’s not our store anymore. Here’s the link to that episode (2 videos).

Cate Luther: When I publish on The Mighty, more people see my writing. That means I am helping to educate more people. That in turn means that more people will help end the stigma of mental illness. The Mighty has also given me the courage to share more of our story.

Melissa Cote: When you publish one of my blog stories on The Mighty, I have people saying to me…
“You make me want to start my own blog!”
“You just told our life story!”
“Thank you for sharing, I’m not alone!”
“Nice job Mama that was brave!”
“You are an amazing advocate!”
“::Tears:: I’ve been there before…That was us…This is us!”
What you have done for me by publishing my stories is you’ve helped me set out to do exactly what I wanted to do, spread awareness, acceptance, love, and to reach other parents like me. We are not alone! Thank you to The Mighty for helping me do that!

Lisa Smith: The Mighty is what had People magazine knock on my door (well, call me on the phone, anyway.) We are a very lucky group to have The Mighty give us a voice…You did a challenge back in November, 2014, asking for us to thank someone who had made a difference in our special needs child’s life. I wrote a thank you note to my son’s classmates telling them how much I appreciate them eating lunch with my son Tate as part of his lunch buddy program and making him feel a part of the class. They have offered him friendship, with no bullying. A representative of People magazine read it and called me for an interview. They then interviewed some of Tate’s classmates. That interview was seen by a group called Newtown Kindness. They invited the boys interviewed and Tate to Connecticut to be recognized in Kindness awards for kids. That ceremony got a lot of coverage. Because of the People article and the Kindness ceremony, people from all over the nation and even some other countries then contacted me and asked me for a description of Tate’s lunch buddy program. They are asking that their schools start programs for the children there with special needs. It has been an amazing story to follow as more and more children are becoming a part of lunch buddy programs.

Kerri Goff: It has given me the courage to write and share our journey. Not only are people interested, they are actually moved by the stories we share. We are spreading awareness about rare conditions…but more importantly, we are putting a face with said condition. We are promoting empathy. People will say, “wow, I get it now”…I have connected with authors and editors who do not work for The Mighty and they are inspired. The Mighty is like one big inspiration domino chain reaction…and it is all good energy… Not always happy, but it is real.

Alyson Herzig: We were honored to be featured last year on The Mighty about the Notre Dame Football players going above and beyond (for our son). Amazing things happened as a result: USA Today picked up the article, interviewed my son, and then he was featured in the ND Football Program! He was so excited to see his name in print and felt like he won the lotto. So thank you for making the difference in one child’s life, you can never understand what it meant to him and me to see his smile and acceptance of his Autism after having recently been diagnosed. You guys are rock stars.”

Sharon Randall: The coolest — albeit small-scale — thing that happened is that the Boston Celtics got in touch after my post to Gerald Wallace, and arranged for Gerald to sign a copy of the photo we had, and send it back to us. It is now framed and in a cherished spot in our home. On a larger scale, the amount of dialogue generated around my post of what divides the Down syndrome community was incredible, and to see the post translated into other languages was very moving. My suspicion is that although we can give examples of what impact we think things have had, we will always underestimate the power and impact of connecting with other human beings, the majority of whom we will never have the privilege to meet.

I think Sharon is right. The experiences of these 10 contributors are just the tip of the iceberg.

As I was finishing this post, an email came in that I could not help but include here as well. The question I bounced off so many of my colleagues before we started The Mighty was, “Could we build a media company that actually helps people?” Here’s one answer, courtesy of Kathy Hooven:

Last week I wrote a blog about how although my 13 year old son with autism is completely verbal, he doesn’t say much. As his mom, even when he doesn’t say a word, I can hear what he doesn’t say. I will share the blog below, but, first I want to share with The Mighty staff evidence of the good you are doing.

Tonight, my 13-year-old son, Ryan,  scooched next to me on the couch and saw me looking at The Mighty’s Facebook page. I showed him his handsome face from some of my posts you shared previously as well as posts by others. He was captivated. Hearing stories of other kids like him. Other kids and adults with autism who may struggle, but, continue to make such progress evoked emotions in him and suddenly, he had a lot to say! “I get that” “That’s me” and “I feel like that too”. I kept waiting for him to get bored, to jump up and return to Minecraft, but, he didn’t. So caught up in his attentiveness, his interest, we both lost track of time. Like Cinderella, I literally heard the clock strike 12 and even though I was afraid the spell would be broken, I said, “Ryan, it’s midnight, we need to go to bed!” and he replied, “No keep telling me stuff, keep reading, it’s so interesting.”

Tonight, he didn’t feel so different. Tonight through your stories he didn’t feel so alone. Tonight, he had a lot (relatively speaking) to say. Thank you for that. It truly was a magical moment!

Originally published: July 17, 2015
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