I’ve had December 3 circled on my calendar for months. It’s the United Nations Day of Persons with Disabilities, though I wasn’t sure exactly how News-O-Matic would cover the day. Little did I know that News-O-Matic’s own global community would answer that question for me.
In October we held our annual Spooktacular Writing Contest. Out of over 250 contestants this year, an 11-year-old girl named Lilly won with her imaginative and terrifying story called, “The Crystal of Souls.” When I sent her mother a congratulatory email, she responded by telling me that Lilly is “most proud that she won this contest ‘as a normal kid’ (Lilly’s words).” After all, Lilly is in a wheelchair due to her form of muscular dystrophy.
I continued the dialogue with Lilly’s family, and her mother Bethanne explained that winning the contest had given Lilly “confidence in her creativity.” Based on her writing talent and perspective, she was a natural fit to write our article for the Day of Persons with Disabilities. “Since Lilly is able to share her experiences, and she is such a strong writer it’s a natural venue for her to help others recognize that people are much more than their disabilities,” explained her mom. “Not every person with a disability has the chance to do that, so it makes it even more meaningful that she can be the voice for others too.”
A few weeks later I received a comment via the News Room from a 10-year-old user named Mimi: “I LOVE News-O-Matic! I was wondering if you could do an article about Racers For Pacers. It is for kids who have disabilities like Down syndrome who can’t run or be active by themselves. So we run with them! We go to races and push them in little chairs/strollers. My dad runs with Dori who has multiple disabilities. She LOVES it!” I dug deeper into the organization and was blown away by its helping mission.
I interviewed the founder of the charity, families that were touched by its life-altering donations, and, of course, Mimi. It was one of the most remarkable stories I’d worked on at News-O-Matic. Combined with Lilly’s essay on the meaning of the Day of Persons with Disabilities, the edition came together perfectly thanks to the words of our young readers.
When I say that Edition 536 is the “most inspirational edition,” I’m really talking about how it affected me personally. I’ve never been more inspired to serve children — and continue sharing their voice.
From Bethanne, Lilly’s mother: “Many thanks for your website that promotes literacy and current events, all while giving kids a voice and a means in which to express it. Keep up the great work!”