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Just before Halloween, I came across a Facebook post praising Target for a costume ad.

Jen Kroll, the woman who wrote the post, was really excited to see a young girl with arm braces modeling a Halloween costume.


Target ad from Jen's Facebook post, shared with her permission.

While including all sorts of people in ads should matter to all of us, this particular one hit really close to home for Jen. Here's why:

Her beautiful daughter, Jerrensia, uses arm braces and has prosthetic legs.

Jerrensia also loves Elsa and has one of the most ridiculously adorable smiles of all time. Just. Look.

I mean, can you even?! So much joy. All photos belong to Jen Kroll and are posted here with her permission.

(You can read more about Jen's initial reaction to the ad and Jerrensia's amazing story in my last article.)

When I saw her daughter's photo from Halloween, my heart filled up with all of the feelings.

Even before the Target ad came out, Jerrensia had wanted to go as Elsa. And here she is in her Halloween costume! Elsa's smile never looked so brilliant.

That smile!

For Jen and her husband, the Target ad supported the message they've been sharing with Jerrensia all along. " Seeing the ad only solidified the message that we have communicated to her — she can be anything she wants to be!" Jen told me. "Princesses can rock both a cape and crutches. Seeing another child who was relatively the same age with the same crutches normalized her own disabilities in a very tangible way."

Jen couldn't believe the incredible response to her Facebook post and our article — and what followed.

Lots of other media outlets and news stations picked up the story, and it spread across the world. "My love letter to Target and its rapid explosion across the globe caught us completely by surprise," Jen told me. Even better was how overwhelmingly positive the responses were.

Surprising? Sure. Most of us don't expect such a huge reaction to a Facebook post. But long overdue? Ab-so-lutely.

And here's why, in Jen's words.

"I long for Jerrensia's gorgeous and contagious smile to be the first thing that other children see, with the disability only as an afterthought. The reality is that just is not the case. Instead, the children she would love to play with are transfixed on her prosthetic legs and often ask, 'What's wrong with her?'

A child can only hear 'What's wrong with you?' so many times before they start to believe that something MUST BE WRONG with them. What a horrible, everyday experience for so many kids with special needs and their introduction into the general public."

Whether we like it or not, our exposure to what we think of as "normal" often comes from the media.

And when the media tends to portray only a very narrow group of people — through movies, TV shows, commercials, and print ads — that's pretty much what we expect people to look like.

But that narrow view leaves out so many people — people like Jerrensia, who are unique, vibrant individuals who deserve to been seen and appreciated for who they are. We need things to change!

"When disabilities are normalized ... they are less intimidating or bizarre and we begin to see each other as exquisite creations with a huge capacity for laughter and friendship," Jen told me. "The degree of our differences becomes irrelevant. If attitude and behavior shifts become possible because we collectively decide to put our money behind media sources that embrace inclusion, it is a huge win for our planet."

Nailed it!

The important takeaway (besides how fantastic Jerrensia is, of course)? Our voices matter!

I think it's safe to say this mother-daughter duo have a lot of fun together.

Jen says she doesn't believe most companies will suddenly become more inclusive just because it's the right thing to do. They'll do it when it's the financially smart thing to do.

Target's ad was a win for inclusion, for validation — and for Target's bottom line. And that's what Jen wants to see more of.

"I can count on one hand the number of retailers, TV, and movies targeted towards children that contain individuals with special needs," she told me. "This does not begin to scratch the surface of equal representation in our society."

Jerrensia just celebrated her sixth birthday this weekend. Like most moms, Jen imagines a future for her daughter where inclusion is the norm — and I think that's possible!

Jerrensia and her mom, Jen (with an adorable photobomb from Jerrensia's older brother Ethan), celebrating her sixth birthday.

As Jen put it: "It's about time we make a stand for the kind of world we want to live in. Where and how we spend our money matters. And sometimes random Facebook posts expressing gratitude for doing the right thing can open the eyes of more people than we could ever imagine — our words hold power."

So let's keep talking about this and encouraging companies to show us what we want to see: all sorts of people. Because we have the power to make it happen.

All images provided by Bombas

We can all be part of the giving movement

True

We all know that small acts of kindness can turn into something big, but does that apply to something as small as a pair of socks?

Yes, it turns out. More than you might think.

A fresh pair of socks is a simple comfort easily taken for granted for most, but for individuals experiencing homelessness—they are a rare commodity. Currently, more than 500,000 people in the U.S. are experiencing homelessness on any given night. Being unstably housed—whether that’s couch surfing, living on the streets, or somewhere in between—often means rarely taking your shoes off, walking for most if not all of the day, and having little access to laundry facilities. And since shelters are not able to provide pre-worn socks due to hygienic reasons, that very basic need is still not met, even if some help is provided. That’s why socks are the #1 most requested clothing item in shelters.

homelessness, bombasSocks are a simple comfort not everyone has access to

When the founders of Bombas, Dave Heath and Randy Goldberg, discovered this problem, they decided to be part of the solution. Using a One Purchased = One Donated business model, Bombas helps provide not only durable, high-quality socks, but also t-shirts and underwear (the top three most requested clothing items in shelters) to those in need nationwide. These meticulously designed donation products include added features intended to offer comfort, quality, and dignity to those experiencing homelessness.

Over the years, Bombas' mission has grown into an enormous movement, with more than 75 million items donated to date and a focus on providing support and visibility to the organizations and people that empower these donations. These are the incredible individuals who are doing the hard work to support those experiencing —or at risk of—homelessness in their communities every day.

Folks like Shirley Raines, creator of Beauty 2 The Streetz. Every Saturday, Raines and her team help those experiencing homelessness on Skid Row in Los Angeles “feel human” with free makeovers, haircuts, food, gift bags and (thanks to Bombas) fresh socks. 500 pairs, every week.

beauty 2 the streetz, skid row laRaines is out there helping people feel their beautiful best

Or Director of Step Forward David Pinson in Cincinnati, Ohio, who offers Bombas donations to those trying to recover from addiction. Launched in 2009, the Step Forward program encourages participation in community walking/running events in order to build confidence and discipline—two major keys to successful rehabilitation. For each marathon, runners are outfitted with special shirts, shoes—and yes, socks—to help make their goals more achievable.

step forward, helping homelessness, homeless non profitsRunning helps instill a sense of confidence and discipline—two key components of successful recovery

Help even reaches the Front Street Clinic of Juneau, Alaska, where Casey Ploof, APRN, and David Norris, RN give out free healthcare to those experiencing homelessness. Because it rains nearly 200 days a year there, it can be very common for people to get trench foot—a very serious condition that, when left untreated, can require amputation. Casey and Dave can help treat trench foot, but without fresh, clean socks, the condition returns. Luckily, their supply is abundant thanks to Bombas. As Casey shared, “people will walk across town and then walk from the valley just to come here to get more socks.”

step forward clinic, step forward alaska, homelessness alaskaWelcome to wild, beautiful and wet Alaska!

The Bombas Impact Report provides details on Bombas’s mission and is full of similar inspiring stories that show how the biggest acts of kindness can come from even the smallest packages. Since its inception in 2013, the company has built a network of over 3,500 Giving Partners in all 50 states, including shelters, nonprofits and community organizations dedicated to supporting our neighbors who are experiencing- or at risk- of homelessness.

Their success has proven that, yes, a simple pair of socks can be a helping hand, an important conversation starter and a link to humanity.

You can also be a part of the solution. Learn more and find the complete Bombas Impact Report by clicking here.

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Woman left at the altar by her fiance decided to 'turn the day around’ and have a wedding anyway

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According to a report in The Metro, on Thursday, September 15, Stead woke up in an Airbnb with her bridemaids, having no idea that her fiance, Kallum Norton, 24, had run off early that morning. The word got to Stead’s bridesmaids at around 7 a.m. the day of the wedding.

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Part of what makes the beauty of fall unique is that it's fleeting. Mother Nature puts on a vibrant show as she sheds what no longer serves her, inviting us to revel in her purposeful self-destruction. It's a gorgeous example of not only embracing change, but celebrating it.

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