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.

Joy

Man uses TikTok to offer 'dinner with dad' to any kid that needs one, even adult ones

Summer Clayton is the father of 2.4 million kids and he couldn’t be more proud.

Come for the food, stay for the wholesomeness.

Summer Clayton is the father of 2.4 million kids and he couldn’t be more proud. His TikTok channel is dedicated to giving people intimate conversations they might long to have with their own father, but can’t. The most popular is his “Dinner With Dad” segment.

The concept is simple: Clayton, aka Dad, always sets down two plates of food. He always tells you what’s for dinner. He always blesses the food. He always checks in with how you’re doing.

I stress the stability here, because as someone who grew up with a less-than-stable relationship with their parents, it stood out immediately. I found myself breathing a sigh of relief at Clayton’s consistency. I also noticed the immediate emotional connection created just by being asked, “How was your day?” According to relationship coach and couples counselor Don Olund, these two elements—stability and connection—are fundamental cravings that children have of their parents. Perhaps we never really stop needing it from them.


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Joy

Meet Eva, the hero dog who risked her life saving her owner from a mountain lion

Wilson had been walking down a path with Eva when a mountain lion suddenly appeared.

Photo by Didssph on Unsplash

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The Belgian Malinois is a special breed of dog. It's highly intelligent, extremely athletic and needs a ton of interaction. While these attributes make the Belgian Malinois the perfect dog for police and military work, they can be a bit of a handful as a typical pet.

As Belgian Malinois owner Erin Wilson jokingly told NPR, they’re basically "a German shepherd on steroids or crack or cocaine.”

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According to a news release from the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, Wilson had been walking down a path with Eva slightly ahead of her when a mountain lion suddenly appeared and swiped Wilson across the left shoulder. She quickly yelled Eva’s name and the dog’s instincts kicked in immediately. Eva rushed in to defend her owner.

It wasn’t long, though, before the mountain lion won the upper hand, much to Wilson’s horror.

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When a couple has their first child, they start out with the greatest of intentions and expectations. The child will only eat organic food. They will never watch TV or have screen time and will always stay clean.

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"Rules are a bit more rigid, attention and validation is directed and somewhat excessive," Niro Feliciano, LCSW, a psychotherapist and anxiety specialist, told Parents. "As a result, firstborns tend to be leaders, high achievers, people-pleasing, rule-following and conscientious, several of the qualities that tend to predict success."

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