'Speechless' isn't just a good show. It's the first to speak directly to people like me living with cerebral palsy.
Maury Phillips/Getty Images for Special Needs Network

It’s hard to find common ground in today’s whirlwind of news and chaos. It has become even harder to balance personal choices about things like identity and other core values. It’s everywhere we turn.

That’s all the more reason why we all must find a temporary escape – or at least something to help us balance reality. For me, that means gluing myself to my T.V. for a half hour every week to watch the award-winning TV show, Speechless.

The show follows The DiMeo’s, a fictional family whose son, JJ, played by actor and disability advocate Micah Fowler, has cerebral palsy. Fowler leads an incredible cast including Minnie Driver and John Ross Bowie as JJ’s loving but protective parents, Mason Cook and Kayla Kenedy as his brother and sister and Cedric Yarbrough as his trusty sidekick and personal care aide.


I don’t watch much TV, but this is a show that speaks to me in many ways.

I was intrigued from the start because I’m a daughter who has cerebral palsy with a family who goes the extra mile every day. I didn’t need much convincing other than that to tune in, but then I found out that Fowler has cerebral palsy in real life.

That made me feel like I had a responsibility to watch because everything I’d heard about it resonated with me on an intimately personal level. Not only that, but I wanted to see how all of this would play out on screen.  

Photo by Valerie Macon/Getty Images.

I didn’t have negative feelings about anything I was hearing. I was just curious and excited to see something like this on network television.

It was the first time I can remember a show having this much effect on me. My expectations were exceeded – and then some.

My eyes were fixed on my TV screen as I was introduced to JJ – an inquisitive, free-spirited teenager who wants to be as independent as possible. His disability is his biggest obstacle, but it doesn’t stop him from being who he is and living life to its fullest. When things don’t work out, his family comes up with another way of doing whatever it is JJ has his mind set on.

They adapt with care and compassion, together.

I slowly whispered to myself, "This is my life. Someone finally gets it!"

I couldn’t believe something that had been so heavily advertised in the media could capture the essence of my life so accurately and vividly.

I started watching intently after the pilot episode, paying attention to how beautifully the show addresses the topic of disability without overdoing it or making it out to be something that it’s not.

It is crafted with such heart, warmth and humor that I forget I’m watching a show about a family much like my own. The DiMeo’s tackle everyday tasks with humility—like helping JJ into the family’s wheelchair-accessible van or making sure his school has everything he needs. All while trying to get to work on time or realizing their van stalled in the middle of a road trip.

It’s scenarios like these that bring a sense of camaraderie and normalcy to what a typical family goes through. It also breaks away from the widespread idea that there’s very little “good” in the media these days, and that it only reinforces the negativity that’s being spread.  

I was immediately hooked, and fell in love with the fact that the show also paints a very real, accessible portrait of life that happens to have someone with a disability at its center.

I appreciate that this show is for everyone to watch – not just those with disabilities. It shines a vibrant light on the importance of acceptance, diversity and inclusiveness – three core values that have been buried underneath shameful political agendas and irrational actions in society as of late.

Speechless is a shining example of what we need right now, as well as how we need to act towards each other regardless of our differences. In an article published in 2016, The Atlantic praised the authentic and heartfelt approach to the show:

Speechless became one of the most important shows about disability in the history of television. That’s not hyperbole; rather, it speaks to the fact that shows that center characters with disabilities, feature actors with disabilities, and tell authentic and informed stories about disability are extremely rare.”

This message is bold, enlightening and still holds true about the show. Yet, it says so much more about society in America, where it’s going and what it desperately needs more of.

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Welcometoterranova and P&G Good Everyday are teaming up to find the people who lead with love everyday.

Know someone in your neighborhood who's known for their optimistic attitude, commitment to bettering their community and always leading with love? Tell us about them for the chance to win a $2,000 grant to keep doing good in their community.

Nomination ends November 22, 2020

Courtesy of Macy's

Brantley and his snowman

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"Would you like to build a snowman?" If you asked five-year-old Brantley from Texas this question, the answer would be a resounding "Yes!" While it may sound like a simple dream, since Texas doesn't usually see much snow, it seemed like a lofty one for him, even more so because Brantley has a congenital heart disease.

On Dec. 11, 2019, however, the real Macy's Santa and his two elves teamed up with Make-A-Wish to surprise Brantley and his family on his way to Colorado where there was plenty of snow for him to build his very own snowman, fulfilling his wish as part of the Macy's Believe campaign. After a joy-filled plane ride where every passenger got gift bags from Macy's, the family arrived in Breckenridge, Colorado where Santa and his elves helped Brantley build a snowman.

Brantley, Brantley's mom, and Santa marveling at their snowmanAll photos courtesy of Macy's

Brantley, who according to his mom had never actually seen snow, was blown away by the experience.

"Well, I had to build a snowman because snowmen are my favorite," Brantley said in an interview with Summit Daily. "All of it was my favorite part."

This is just one example of the more than 330,000 wishes the nonprofit Make-A-Wish have fulfilled to bring joy to children fighting critical illnesses since its founding 40 years ago. Even though many of the children that Make-A-Wish grants wishes for manage or overcome their illnesses, they often face months, if not years of doctor's visits, hospital stays and uncomfortable treatments. The nonprofit helps these children and their families replace fear with confidence, sadness with joy and anxiety with hope.

It's hardly an outlandish notion — research shows that a wish come true can help increase these children's resiliency and improve their quality of life. Brantley is a prime example.

"This couldn't have come at a better time because we see all the hardships that we went through last year," Brantley's mom Brandi told Summit Daily.

Brantley playing with snowballs

Now more than ever, kids with critical illnesses need hope. Since they're particularly vulnerable to disease, they and their families have had to isolate even more during the pandemic and avoid the people they love most and many of the activities that recharge them. That's why Make-A-Wish is doing everything it can to fulfill wishes in spite of the unprecedented obstacles.

That's where you come in. Macy's has raised over $132 million for Make-A-Wish, and helped grant more than 15,500 wishes since their partnership began in 2003, but they couldn't have done that without the support of everyday people. The crux of that support comes from Macy's Believe Campaign — the longstanding holiday fundraising effort where for every letter to Santa that's written online at Macys.com or dropped off safely at the red Believe mailbox at their stores, Macy's will donate $1 to Make-A-Wish, up to $1 million. New this year, National Believe Day will be expanded to National Believe Week and will provide customers the opportunity to double their donations ($2 per letter, up to an additional $1 million) for a full week from Sunday, Nov. 29 through Saturday, Dec. 5.

There are more ways to support Make-A-Wish besides letter-writing too. If you purchase a $4 Believe bracelet, $2 of each bracelet will be donated to Make-A-Wish through Dec. 31. And for families who are all about the holiday PJs, on Giving Tuesday (Dec. 1), 20 percent of the purchase price of select family pajamas will benefit Make-A-Wish.

Elizabeth living out her wish of being a fashion designer

Additionally, this year's campaign features 6-year-old Elizabeth, a Make-A-Wish child diagnosed with leukemia, whose wish to design a dress recently came true. Thanks to the style experts at Macy's Fashion Office and I.N.C. International Concepts, only at Macy's, Elizabeth had the opportunity to design a colorful floral maxi dress. Elizabeth's exclusive design is now available online at Macys.com and in select Macy's stores. In the spirit of giving back this holiday season, 20 percent of the purchase price of Elizabeth's dress (through Dec. 31) will benefit Make-A-Wish.You can also donate directly to Make-A-Wish via Macy's website.

This holiday season may be a tough one this year, but you can bring joy to children fighting critical illnesses by delivering hope for their wishes to come true.

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A lot of people here are like family to me," Michelle says about Bread for the City — a community nonprofit located in Washington DC that provides local residents with food, clothing, health care, social advocacy, and legal services. And since the pandemic began, the need to support organizations like Bread for the City is greater than ever, which is why Amazon is Delivering Smiles to local charities across the country this holiday season.

Watch the full story:

Amazon is giving back by fulfilling hundreds of AmazonSmile Charity Lists, and donating essential pantry and food items to help organizations like Bread for the City provide to those disproportionately impacted this year.

Visit AmazonSmile Charity Lists to donate directly to a local charity in your community, or simply shop smile.amazon.com and Amazon will donate a portion of the purchase price of eligible products to your charity of choice.
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