Friday, November 29, 2013

Abused "Warrior" Puppy and Boy with Autism Make Perfect Team

For the past few days, I've been debating whether or not to write about Black Friday, but then I thought, we already have a Black Friday post, and I'm actually pretty tired of the whole post-Thanksgiving shenanigans. Instead I bring to you an absolutely heartwarming story to make you feel happy to be a reasonable human instead of a bumbling bargain beast. Be it known I rarely call things “absolutely heartwarming” and actually mean it. This time, I mean it. I only hope I can relay to you the fuzzies this story gave to me.

This is Jonny Hickey before he met Xena:

And this is Xena before she met Jonny:

Jonny is an eight year old Georgia boy who has autism. Although Jonny can speak and read proficiently, he spent most of his life quiet and isolated, choosing solitary activities like playing with marbles over often painful social interactions.

Xena was a severely neglected puppy who was brought into DeKalb County Animal Services shelter in Georgia after collapsing from weakness in somebody's yard. She weighed four pounds and seemed unlikely to survive the night. However, with vet visits, nutritional supplements, and fluids, she pulled through and was named Xena the Warrior Puppy. A Facebook page was made in her honor, which is how Linda Hickey, Jonny's mom, found the dog that would change her son's life.

When Xena was strong enough, she made an appearance at a Friends of DeKalb Animals fundraising event, and Linda took her family to meet the puppy she had already fallen in love with on the internet.

“We were literally there for four minutes,” Hickey tells, “and Xena ran right up to Jonny and my husband.”

They adopted Xena soon after.

During their first trial day with the new puppy, Linda brought Xena with her to pick Jonny up from school. She instantly smothered him with kisses and unconditional affection and took her place sitting on Jonny's lap. “That's where she's been ever since.”

This is Jonny and Xena now that they've found each other.

Since Jonny met Xena, he has been his happiest. He is talkative, playful, and engaged, and he loves to sing and tell his family about the things he did in school on a given day. With Xena's help, Jonny's personal space issues have improved; Xena can usually be found leaning, sitting, or lying on Jonny. Even though they weigh nearly the same, Jonny seems to really appreciate the contact.

Since Xena met Jonny, she has gained her health and a needed friend who reciprocates her unconditional love. She was also recently named ASPCA Dog of the Year.

They are, as Jonny says, the perfect team.

Life-changing friendships...definitely something to be thankful for.  

Friday, November 22, 2013

Threading Straws Together

Hey everybody! A friend of mine shared this awesome video with me, and I thought it was definitely worth sharing with all of you. It is a little long, so I'm going to keep the text short in an attempt to encourage you to watch through the end.

Janine Shepherd had hopes of becoming an Olympian. She had always thought of her body as a machine; her athleticism defined her. But, of course, her life took an unexpected turn when, out on a bike ride, she was hit by a truck. Her machine was broken and would never be the same.

Watch this wonderful TED Talk to see what Janine did with her life. It's pretty amazing.

You are not your body!

Have a fantastic weekend, everyone! Don't forget to push yourself out of your comfort zone every once in a while. :)

Friday, November 15, 2013

Flo Fox: NY Photographer Worth Seeing

Here's to rad photographer (with a name to fit her sass), Flo Fox, who captures thought-provoking, often humorous images of New York street life in spite of a significant visual impairment, multiple sclerosis, and lung cancer.

If you were in New York recently and saw a purple-haired woman riding around the streets in a motorized wheelchair, camera around her neck, care assistant by her side, chances are you came across Flo Fox. Maybe she stopped in the middle of the street and urged her aide to grab the camera before the opportunity disappeared, describing the shot she wanted as her aide pointed the lens and snapped the photo. Perhaps she was even on a street corner, mixing cement so she could repair New York's broken sidewalks herself, since the city would not. That's her personality—big, audacious, and quirky, just like the city that seems to supply her with unending inspiration.

Fox has always been a little eccentric; she was orphaned as a teenager and ended up hanging out at Studio 54 in the same social crowds as Andy Warhol and photographers Andre Kertesz and Lisette Model. Fox claims she was raised by what would become the main focus of her photography: “I got my education on the streets. That's why I can take naughty photos.”

Fox was born blind in one eye and is now almost completely blind in the other. This early blindness is partly what drew her to photography. Fox says that being born blind in one eye was perfect for photography. She never had to close an eye to take a photo, and she never had to change three dimensions to a flat plane. It made sense, so when she was 26, she used her first paycheck to buy a camera.

Fox still takes photos and exhibits them—she even has permanent collections in both the Smithsonian and the Brooklyn Museum—but now she takes her photographs in a different way. Since her triplegia, caused by MS, makes it impossible for her to hold a camera, Fox instructs her aides to take the photos for her. She says that maybe one in ten turn out exactly as she'd hoped, and others just need cropping here or there. She is happy that she's been able to take so many photos.

“You have to take a look at what you can do with your life to keep your interests going.”

Take a look at this nice mini-documentary and let me know what you think!

Friday, November 8, 2013

Disability, Adoption, and the Road Less Traveled

Did you know November is Adoption Awareness Month? I didn't, but apparently Huffington Post and Jeremy Green, father of nine-going-on-ten, did, and they got together via HuffPost Live to talk about Green's unusual adoption story.

Green is the biological father of three children, but he and his wife, Christianne, weren't ready to stop adding to their family when, after losing two infants, they were told they were not able to have any more children biologically. They decided to look into adoption. The couple's initial instinct was to go for “healthy infant”, but as they looked at the list of children waiting to be adopted, they found that many of them had special needs. This meant that these children immediately didn't match up with anyone who hadn't checked off the box that said yes, they would adopt a child with a specific special need.

When Green looked at his first adopted child's profile, he was overwhelmed and nervous. Elli was blind.

“I said, 'You know, blind—that's a pretty significant special need. We don't know anything about that,'” Green says. “But then I came to realize that nobody knows anything about raising a special needs child, and special needs kids are born to families all the time. And you just deal with it and you figure it out."

After the Greens adopted Elli, a child's disability was never an issue when it came to the adoption process. They saw that these children were just people.

The Greens have adopted six children with various disabilities, and it seems to have worked out wonderfully for the whole family. Often, the children work together to help accommodate one another's needs. For example, their daughters Lexi and Sophie were adopted at the same time in December 2010, and they are a great team. Lexi is blind, and Sophi was born without arms, so the two will pair up, Lexi grabbing Sophi's empty shirtsleeve and Sophie leading Lexi around the house. They do everything together.

Now the Greens are getting ready to add a tenth child to their family. They announced their intentions in the spring of 2012, and their community backed them up big time. They pulled together and raised $200,000 to go toward the construction of a larger home that would better accommodate the sizable family. The boys of the family watched the construction process from beginning to end, but the five girls didn't get to see it until their princess tower was framed inside. They all moved in about two months ago and say it has made an amazing difference for them and that they are incredibly thankful for all the support they've been given.

“The best thing about the house is probably how it came together,” Green says. “It is a house built on love.”

I hope this story made your gloomy day (if you're in the Portland area, at any rate) a little brighter. I think it's always nice to be reminded that people are capable of looking past what seems to be an immediate or impossible obstacle and making it work out for everyone involved.

Want to read more about the Green family and how they took, as they quote, the road less traveled? Check out their blog: (Seriously, it's a really cute blog.)

Have a nice holiday weekend, everyone, and be good to each other!

Friday, November 1, 2013

Superhero Profile: Stephanne Beauchamp, MHKC Staff Member

Last year around this time, I posted an interview with Kiwanis Camp counselor, Jimmy Lorang. This November, I've got a little profile of SUPERHERO Kiwanis staff member Stephanne Beauchamp, who has been part of the MHKC League of Goodness and Fun for the past three years.


Basic Information
Alias(es) Stephanne Beauchamp
First appearance 2010
Alignment Good

Gender Female
Race Human
Eye color Brown
Hair color Dark Brown/Black

Occupation Senior HR generalist/consultant
Camp Occupation Counselor supervisor
Camp Base Trillium Lake

School Portland State University
Studies BS in Communication
Capstone MHKC counselor


As a senior in college at Portland State University in Portland, Oregon, Stephanne Beauchamp decided to complete her capstone project by serving as a counselor at Mt. Hood Kiwanis Camp, a fun and well-spirited camp for people of all abilities. It wasn't long before she realized this camp had an astounding force of good unseen to the average eye. During those two weeks at camp, Stephanne vowed to commit herself to a life of love, empathy, and goodness, and has since gone back to camp as a staff member. She calls MHKC her “chicken soup for the soul”.

Stephanne (right) with a fellow superhero!
Favorite Adventure
During her first summer at camp, Stephanne met Kiwanis camper, Jason. Jason was nonverbal, but he was excellent at using combinations of signs, gestures, and charades to communicate. By their second day together, Stephanne and Jason had fallen effortlessly into their own way of communicating. On the third day, though, Stephanne ran into a snag. Jason had been trying to tell her something while they were practicing the group skit for the Thursday night family barbeque, but she could not figure it out. Jason gestured toward the side of his neck, and all Stephanne could think of was Dracula or being bitten. This went on for five days, and Jason never lost his patience or got frustrated that Stephanne wasn't understanding. Finally, on the afternoon of the performance, another camper walked by and said nonchalantly, “He is referring to the Twilight movie!” Stephanne knew then that not only was camp was a place for campers to be themselves, but it was also a place she could learn from them.

Powers & Abilities

Motherly Empathy
Stephanne has two small children of her own who, while also acting as supreme sidekicks, help her understand the love, strength, commitment, and dedication it must take to be the parent of a child with a disability. She hopes she does a good job as a parent so that her children can successfully “leave the nest and fly on their own” and can only imagine the superhero status of parents who take on a lifetime of care and support for their children.
Open Heart and Mind
Going into camp with an open heart ensures that it will be completely filled with contentment by the end. Along with taking in the full impact of the MHKC experience, going to camp open and ready to have a change in perspective is Stephanne's biggest piece of advice for new counselors.
Continued Commitment to Good
Stephanne hopes that Mt. Hood Kiwanis Camp will continue to provide a sanctuary for campers to meet one another and enjoy themselves. Of course, she also hopes that the camp will get more funding so that it can continue to expand and reach out to as many families and people with disabilities as possible so those people can continue to teach others about what it means to live.
Ability to Connect Worlds
As an Human Resources consultant for small to medium-sized businesses, Stephanne has the opportunity to advocate, teach, and encourage local businesses to employ people with disabilities. She loves that she is able to bridge two worlds in a non-traditional way.
Super Canoeing Powers
This is just conjecture. :)

Here's a special thanks to Superhero Stephanne for making this post possible.
Do you or anyone you know want to become a Kiwanis Camp hero? Click here for more information about becoming a camp counselor!