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Category: Stories of Hope & Inspiration

Youth Art Month enlivens creativity and fosters patriotism.

60Did you know that Youth Art Month is observed in March by thousands of schools in the United States, with the involvement of local art museums and civic organizations?

Youth Art Month, originally called “Children’s Art Month,” was founded in 1961 by Crayon, Water Color & Craft Institute, Inc., the predecessor of the Art & Creative Materials Institute, Inc. (ACMI), in cooperation with the National Art Education Association.

The name was changed to reflect the inclusion of secondary school students. The nationwide appeal for Youth Art Month is due to a competition called School Flags Across America…Flying High.

School officials select a theme that represents their state, and they encourage participants to capture that theme by designing flags. What a great way to illustrate the spirit of Youth Art Month and unify children across the U.S.

Activities

There are a number of ways all of us can show our support of Youth Art Month. Here are just some ideas:

  • Display student artwork in libraries, community centers, local businesses and art museums.
  • Reach out to local media: Radio, television and online outlets to promote activities and raise awareness about Youth Art Month.
  • Develop local contests with prizes to help children nurture their artistic abilities.
  • Sponsor a special event.
  • Offer a craft workshop.

Unknown Activities depend on local volunteers!

Governors and local officials throughout the country issue proclamations declaring that we all need to make public statements in   favor of art education.

The reality is that most activities for Youth Art Month are carried out and funded by volunteers comprised of parents, educators, librarians, youth leaders at churches, business professionals and students.

It is our hope that you may be interested in volunteering at America’s Special Kidz. With your help we will offer an art campaign to children with disabilities and their siblings called America, the Beautiful.

If you, your school or organization would like to participate in the planning, please contact us at (973) 521-0433 or via email at Joanne@americaspecialkidz.org

Facts about our national favorite to inspire you

America the Beautiful


The lyrics to this beautiful song were written by Katharine Lee Bates (1859-1929), a professor of English literature at Wellesley College, in Massachusetts, after her inspiring trip to the top of Pikes Peak, Colorado in 1893. America the Beautiful first appeared in print in the Congregationalist, a weekly journal, on July 4, 1895. Ms. Bates revised her lyrics in 1904 and then again in 1913.

Lyrics:

O beautiful for spacious skies,
for amber waves of grain,
for purple mountain majesties
above the fruited plain!
America! America! God shed His grace on thee,
and crown thy good with brotherhood
from sea to shining sea!

O beautiful for pilgrim feet,
whose stern impassion’d stress
a thoroughfare for freedom beat
across the wilderness!
America! America! God mend thine ev’ry flaw,
confirm thy soul in self-control,
thy liberty in law!

O beautiful for heroes proved in liberating strife,
who more than self their country loved,
and mercy more than life!
America! America! May God thy gold refine
till all success be nobleness,
and ev’ry gain divine!

O Beautiful for patriot dream
that sees beyond the years
thine alabaster cities gleam,
undimmed by human tears!
America! America! God shed His grace on thee,
and crown thy good with brotherhood
from sea to shining sea!

 

A Child’s Profound View About Disabilities Stirs this Mom.

Recently a friend shared her daughter’s seventh-grade essay with me about how she viewed children with disabilities. As I read each line of text, I was inspired by her vision.

“In my life I have helped many people in need,” she began. “For example, I am currently helping children with disabilities by being a mentor. I do not think of these children as below me but as my equal.”

This teenager continued to explain, “I see that they are human and not just someone who looks “funny” or talks differently. On the inside they are children of God, just like me. They should never be made fun of because of their appearance…I accept them not because I need to, but because I want to.”

“I feel it is my job to be a friend to everyone, regardless of his or her outward appearance. I choose to accept them and I am enjoying every minute of it!” she concluded.

This child got me reminiscing about my own teenage years. I remember having an immense interest in helping the underdog—the kid on the playground who no one picked to play team sports or the punk-rock girl in high school English who wore funky clothes and dyed her hair pink.

I learned to admire these kids that marched to a beat of their own drum. Others simply stood by and judged them based on their outward appearance.

I genuinely took the time to get to know my eccentric friends and always enjoyed learning from them. I can honestly say that I share the same sentiment as my friend’s daughter. I am better for knowing my extraordinary friends.

Fast forward

It’s more than 20 years since high school and I am a mother of a little boy with Down syndrome. My heart has been tugged in an even more personal way. I have developed a strong affinity for individuals with Down syndrome and a wide range of disabilities and medical conditions. My new found underdogs, or as I prefer to call them “heroes,” are enriching my life in new ways. I would have missed out on these opportunities had I never taken the time to get to know the children and their families.

You might say that my eyes and heart have been opened to the needs of all people struggling through challenges of everyday life. I have met parents who have never seen their sons or daughters walk, talk, and throw a ball or even dance. As a parent of a special needs child, I know how desperately these parents would love to hear from their family and friends, “How are you today? Can I help you with…. Or, can I bring you a cup of coffee?” These families desperately need someone to pick up the phone and tell them how much they are loved. Instead, most people quickly get off the phone and avoid asking about the child. It is not the child’s disability that is heartbreaking; it is the indifferent reaction from others.

No man or woman is an island.

We need each other folks. There is so much more to each one of us than meets the eye.

The questions I pose to you: Will you stop to acknowledge those around you who are struggling with disabilities and health issues? Will you commit to looking beyond their external appearances and look deeper for their unique gifts? Lastly, will you stand with me to help these families?

Together, we can make a real difference one person at a time.

An amazing child with Down syndrome changed my life forever!

When I first supected that I was pregnant, I kept purchasing different types of pregnacy tests. I thought to myself, “this can’t be possible.” I must have taken at least three different tests to validate that at 40 years old, I was finally carrying my long-awaited baby.

Twenty weeks into my pregnacy I went to my doctor for the standard blood work and an ultrasound that determined I was carrying a little boy. I left the office with John Joseph “JJ’s” first picture and my heart racing with excitement. I couldn’t wait to begin planning for my husband’s name sake. Nothing could have prepared me for the news that awaited me.

A week later, my doctor’s office phoned and asked me to come in to discuss my blood work. By the sound of the nurse, I began to feel uneasy. When I arrived at the doctor’s office my physician explained that the baby I was carrying had markers for Down syndrome, but he couldn’t be certain if my son had Down syndrome or another chromosome disorder (like Trisomy 18 or Trisomy 13). He continued to say that with Trisomy 18 more than 50% die before birth or shortly thereafter. If the baby had Trisomy 13 there was more than an 80% chance the baby would die right away. With these odds, he urged me to take an amniocentesis and consider ending the pregnancy.

I remember driving home in shock and terrified. I thought to myself that my baby was going to be fine. I went home and prayed and saught family and friends for love and support.

When I returned for my next doctor’s visit, I informed my doctor that I was not going to take an amniocentesis test nor was I going to terminate my son’s life. I waited too long for this child. I explained that I had gone to a fertility specialist in NJ for 15 years and was told that I may not be able to have children. If God gave this baby to me, I was going to love him.

I remember the doctor mocking my beliefs and telling me that I had no idea what I was in for and that “the child would ruin my life.” Of course I had no idea what I was in for, but I believed then (and still do now) that every life is valuable.

I am so glad that I didn’t allow two different physicians or my spouse to stop me from having JJ. While it was a rollercoaster ride. I wouldn’t change a thing about my decision.

The entire nine months were emotional, but I felt and looked the best I ever did. When JJ finally arrived, I fell in love with him instantly. He didn’t move around much like other babies and he didn’t drink much milk either, but he was beautiful.

I remember feeding him from a dropper which gave him his first nick-name “baby bird.” My baby bird could only take a few drops of milk at a time, yet he was always so hungry. I had a gut feeling that something was wrong, but everyone kept assuring me that JJ was fine. He had Down syndrome. Be patient. I thought to myself even a baby with Down syndrome has to eat. Little did I know that the next five and half months were going to be terrifying.

JJ continued to be very hungry. Yet he could only drink 2 oz. of milk a sitting. He was almost 8 pds at birth, but was continuing to drop weight. I literally had to feed him around the clock even at 5 months. It wasn’t until he began to spit up blood that the physicians began to take notice.

After more than 6 hours of testing at the hospital, they finally found that JJ had a severe blockage. I was told the blockage was common with children who had Down syndrome. They also informed me that he should have been operated at birth. It was a miracle that he survived. If the surgeon didn’t open up the blockage, JJ would not have survived to the morning! I remember getting on my hands and knees in the waiting room and begging God to save my little boy.

JJ was hospitalized for a week. He had surgery for malrotated intestines, a blockage in his intestine and an appendectomy. I never left his side. Our bond grew stronger as each day progressed. My admiration for him grew as well. Despite the immense pain he was experiencing, I saw a sweet boy smiling at the nurses and phylebotomists as they kept coming in to take his blood. There were tubes and cords all around him. I would gently move them to change his diaper.

I knew that little guy needed me to be strong. In the midst of all the unknown, we needed each other. I began singing one of my favorite Beatles songs. I  changed some of the lyrics just for my amazing boy.

John Joseph, “I give you all my love. That’s what I do and if you saw my John, you’d love him to…and I love him. A love like ours will never die as long as I have you near me. Bright are the stars that shine. Dark is the sky. I know a love like mine will never die…AND I LOVE YOU.

 

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