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22 People (and 1 Balloon) We Want to See in the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade

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In a perfect world, people of all abilities would be represented and included in the Thanksgiving Day Parade (and, you know, everything else). That’s not the case yet, but if we were in charge of the parade, it might look something like this…

We’d like the following people (and one balloon) included in this year’s Thanksgiving Day Parade:

1. We’d love to see professor, author, animal welfare expert and autism advocate Temple Grandin seated atop a horse and leading the parade, just as she’s led the way for awareness and understanding of autism spectrum disorder.

LOS ANGELES, CA - AUGUST 29: Temple Grandin and Claire Danes attend HBO's Annual Emmy Awards Post Award Reception at The Plaza at the Pacific Design Center on August 29, 2010 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Michael Buckner/Getty Images)
Temple Grandin and Claire Danes via ThinkStock

2-5. World-famous model with Down syndrome Madeline Stuart would be strutting her stuff on a catwalk-themed float alongside Rebekah Marine, known as the “bionic model,” fellow model with Down syndrome Gigi Cunningham and “America’s Next Top Model’s” first deaf contestant, Nyle DiMarco.

Courtesy of EverMaya / Tammy Swales Studio
Screen Shot 2015-11-25 at 8.47.52 AM
Via Rebekah Marine’s Instagram
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Image courtesy of Erica Butler/Majestic Time Photography
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Via Nyle DiMarco’s Instagram

6. Chris Ulmer is a special education teacher at Keystone Academy in Jacksonville, Florida. Earlier this month, a video of Ulmer’s morning routine of spending 10 minutes complimenting each of his students went viral. In our Thanksgiving parade, Ulmer and his students would march along and compliment everyone within reach.

7. We couldn’t have a parade without Maysoon Zayid, actress, professional standup comedian and disability rights activist. When Zayid, who has cerebral palsy, isn’t making audiences laugh, giving amazing Ted Talks or working the runway, she is advocating for better representation of actors with disabilities in Hollywood.
Melissa McGlensey / The Mighty
8. Bestselling author, national speaker and autism advocate Kerry Magro would be hanging out on a float with Adele and Demi Lovato, who helped him with sensory overload and issues with self worth.
9. Ronda Rousey isn’t just a badass mixed martial artist and the first UFC Women’s Bantamweight Champion, she’s also a role model for people with apraxia of speech, as we learned when Mighty contributor Laura Smith met Rousey. We would definitely include Rousey in our parade (and not just because we’re scared she’ll beat us up if we don’t), as well as passionate apraxia advocates.
attends the Maxim Hot 100 Party at Vanguard on May 15, 2013 in Hollywood, California.
Via Thinkstock
10. We’d be remiss if we didn’t give these amputee veterans and models a spot in the parade. These heroic (and OK, hunky) U.S. Military veterans appeared in photographer Michael Stokes’s book “Always Loyal” this year.

11. Up next is Ste Walker, the 24-year-old man who raised awareness about invisible illness with a brave Facebook post. Tired of people making assumptions about his health based on his appearance, Walker shared a photo of himself looking “normal” along with one that shows his scars and tubes. The post went viral and educated many people about assumptions we make based on outward appearances.

Screen Shot 2015-11-24 at 4.20.07 PM
Via Ste Walker’s Facebook page.

12-18. Our parade would feature the entire cast of A&E Networks’s new show “Born This Way,” a six-episode documentary airing in December about young adults with Down syndrome. The hour-long episodes feature the stories of seven people with Down syndrome from Southern California as they go about their everyday lives.

Scene from the new A&E Docu-Series “Born This Way.” Photo by Adam Taylor, courtesy of A&E.

19. One of the main attractions would be the giant parade balloon of Julia, the new “Sesame Street” character with autism. Julia appears in an online storybook called “We’re Amazing, 1,2,3,” where she meets Elmo and teaches him about autism.


20-21. If Winnie Harlow, a model with the skin condition vitiligo, wasn’t already one of our favorite people, her encounter with a girl who also has vitiligo certainly cemented it. In September, Harlow surprised April, who aspires to be a model as well, on TV show “The Real.” The heartwarming meeting had everyone in tears. We’d love to see these new friends at our parade, waving from atop a float celebrating all forms of beauty.

22. Laughter would abound, and few people understand the healing power of a joke, and the importance of being able to poke fun at yourself, better than motivational speaker, bestselling author and Halloween costume mastermind, Josh Sundquist. Sundquist has one leg, and for –> with his creative creations. This year’s was no exception — he went as IHOP (get it?).

23. Erin Jones, a special needs mom from Nashville, posted a prescription selfie on Facebook that sparked a mental health social media revolution. Jones’s empowering declaration to the world that it’s OK to get help when you need it, along with her serving as the inspiration behind the #MedicatedAndMighty hashtag, definitely earns her a spot in our parade.


BONUS: Rounding out our dream Mighty Thanksgiving Day Parade would be a procession of all of our amazing readers and contributors beneath a banner that reads “Different Is Beautiful.”

Without all of you, we wouldn’t be here.


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Originally published: November 25, 2015
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