Remember the viral Target Halloween ad a few weeks ago? The daughter rocked her costume!

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.

Courtesy of Verizon
True

If someone were to say "video games" to you, what are the first words that come to mind? Whatever words you thought of (fun, exciting, etc.), we're willing to guess "healthy" or "mental health tool" didn't pop into your mind.

And yet… it turns out they are. Especially for Veterans.

How? Well, for one thing, video games — and virtual reality more generally — are also more accessible and less stigmatized to veterans than mental health treatment. In fact, some psychiatrists are using virtual reality systems for this reason to treat PTSD.

Secondly, video games allow people to socialize in new ways with people who share common interests and goals. And for Veterans, many of whom leave the military feeling isolated or lonely after they lose the daily camaraderie of their regiment, that socialization is critical to their mental health. It gives them a virtual group of friends to talk with, connect to, and relate to through shared goals and interests.

In addition, according to a 2018 study, since many video games simulate real-life situations they encountered during their service, it makes socialization easier since they can relate to and find common ground with other gamers while playing.

This can help ease symptoms of depression, anxiety, and even PTSD in Veterans, which affects 20% of the Veterans who have served since 9/11.

Watch here as Verizon dives into the stories of three Veteran gamers to learn how video games helped them build community, deal with trauma and have some fun.

Band of Gamers www.youtube.com

Video games have been especially beneficial to Veterans since the beginning of the pandemic when all of us — Veterans included — have been even more isolated than ever before.

And that's why Verizon launched a challenge last year, which saw $30,000 donated to four military charities.

And this year, they're going even bigger by launching a new World of Warships charity tournament in partnership with Wargaming and Wounded Warrior Project called "Verizon Warrior Series." During the tournament, gamers will be able to interact with the game's iconic ships in new and exciting ways, all while giving back.

Together with these nonprofits, the tournament will welcome teams all across the nation in order to raise money for military charities helping Veterans in need. There will be a $100,000 prize pool donated to these charities, as well as donation drives for injured Veterans at every match during the tournament to raise extra funds.

Verizon is also providing special discounts to Those Who Serve communities, including military and first responders, and they're offering a $75 in-game content military promo for World of Warships.

Tournament finals are scheduled for August 8, so be sure to tune in to the tournament and donate if you can in order to give back to Veterans in need.

Courtesy of Verizon

via CNN / Twitter

Eviction seemed imminent for Dasha Kelly, 32, and her three young daughters Sharron, 8; Kia, 6; and Imani, 5, on Monday. The eviction moratorium expired over the weekend and it looked like there was no way for them to avoid becoming homeless.

The former Las Vegas card dealer lost her job due to casino closures during the pandemic and needed $2,000 to cover her back rent. The mother of three couldn't bear the thought of being put out of her apartment with three children in the scorching Nevada desert.

"I had no idea what we were going to do," Kelly said, according to KOAT.

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