My little girl, Pip, is different. Plain and simple, no way around it. She has physical differences due to Down syndrome, congenital cataracts, vision problems and more. My little girl is different—and my little girl is outrageously beautiful.
Pip has been on magazine covers, including Today’s Parent, thousands of billboards across the country, newspapers and TV spots, and she is the inspiration behind the Happy Soul Project. As a special-needs parent, I know how it can feel to be overwhelmed with pride for who your child is—and it means even more when the rest of the world is touched as well. That is what inspired the 2015 #differentisbeautiful calendar.
We held a casting call asking for children to come out and celebrate what makes them different—whether that was diabetes, having one arm or allergies. We wanted whatever they felt made them different to be the very thing that made them feel beautiful. The vast amount of differences and diagnoses we saw was eye-opening, and something I'm so very excited to feature in our calendar. But what blew me away the most, and what gives this calendar such purpose, were the similarities in each family despite the different diagnoses.
I really got to understand each child's story: the struggles, the constant medical appointments, the therapies, the treatments, the future prognoses. And while the journey for each child was different, the core remained the same: the path may have been hard, but the love and pride was overwhelming.
The #differentisbeautiful calendar allows these families to share in that same pride I experienced at the casting call, photo shoot and calendar launch party. It's to show them we think their children are amazing just the way they are. It's to honour the hours, days, months and, in some cases, years they've spent in hospitals, at doctor appointments and visiting specialists. It's to stand beside them and pat their backs for a job well done. And it's to allow them to shout from the rooftops that their children are special, important, valued and awesome.
We also want the calendar to help build a community of kindness. Each month there is an "Awesome, Eh?" feature, which shines a light on a random act of kindness that leaves someone with nothing left to say except “Awesome, eh?” On the 15th of every month, the thousands of people who have already purchased the calendar will be challenged to put that positivity out there in the world—whether it's leaving a Post-It note that reads “You are beautiful” in a public space, or donating a coat to a child in need. It’s meant to make someone else’s world brighter.
It’s time for others to see the beauty in differences, and I'm so proud that the Happy Soul Project is helping bring about that change. The confidence I saw in the children during this process, the laughter it brought out in others and the pure joy it’s now giving those who have purchased the calendar is humbling.
And to think, one little girl who just happened to be a bit different inspired all of this. Happy 2015, friends.
To read more about Pip, visit Tara’s blog, Happy Soul Project.