Courtesy of Quinn Hendershot

Quinn Hendershot and her grandma have always been super close. She's lived nearby in the southwest suburbs of Chicago, Illinois for Hendershot's entire life. When she was 13 and her father suffered a brain stem stroke, her grandma moved in with her family to help take care of everyone. Unsurprisingly, Hendershot feels incredibly connected to her.

Even when they weren't living under the same roof, Hendershot got to visit with her grandma regularly while she was growing up, and that didn't change when she became a young woman and was preparing to go off to graduate school.

"When I spend time with her, we do a lot of cooking (she loves to feed me!), as well as running errands together since she can't drive," says Hendershot.

Last year, however, Hendershot's grandma built a house in Colombia and moved there semi-permanently. She was born in Colombia and lived there until she was 17, so she still has a lot of family there whom she wants to reconnect with and help look after.

"My grandma grew up on a farm, and has always wanted to live somewhere where she could keep farm animals like chickens and donkeys," explains Hendershot. "It's a lot cheaper and easier to build houses in Colombia, so when she saved up enough money to build a house there, she bought a plot of land in the country and started building."

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Courtesy of April McNary

April McNary, a teacher at Sunnyslope High School in Phoenix, Arizona, has always believed in the transformative power of reading and writing. The honest conversations that are sparked by this creative work, she says, are some of the most valuable to her.

"Allowing students to wrestle with their thoughts and convictions is something that happens on a regular basis, and it's one of the parts I love most about my career choice," says McNary.

While learning from great written works like Shakespeare is always on the agenda, McNary also makes a point of giving her students space to write and reflect on pressing issues that affect them directly — like gun violence. After the Parkland shooting happened, she gave her students time to do just that, then discuss what they wrote in small groups. Allowing the students space to express their feelings helped everyone feel better and get on with the day.

One area of creative expression McNary felt like she needed to boost in her classroom was poetry.

"Knowing that reading one's own poetry is terrifying for some (and something I still won't assign), I figured something less daunting was to read a poem someone else had written/published," she explains.

But she implemented a twist — students had to choose a poem with which they had some sort of personal connection. Little did she know what incredible moments were about to transpire as a result.

Courtesy of April McNary

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Courtesy of Macy's

In many ways, 18-year-old Idaho native, Hank Cazier, is like any other teenager you've met. He loves chocolate, pop music, and playing games with his family. He has lofty dreams of modeling for a major clothing company one day. But one thing that sets him apart may also jeopardize his future is his recent battle against a brain tumor.

Cazier was diagnosed in 2015. When he had surgery to remove the tumor, he received trauma to his brain and lost some of his motor functionality. He's been in physical, occupational, and speech therapy ever since. The experience impacted Cazier's confidence and self-esteem, so he's been looking for a way to build himself back up again.

"I wanted to do something that helped me look forward to the future," he says.

Enter Make-A-Wish, a nonprofit organization that grants wishes for children battling critical illnesses, providing them a chance to make the impossible possible. The organization partnered with Macy's to raise awareness and help make those wishes a reality. The hope is that the "wish effect" will improve their quality of life and empower them with the strength they need to overcome these illnesses and look towards the future. That was a particularly big deal for Cazier, who had been feeling like so many of his wishes weren't going to be possible because of his critical illness.

"In the beginning, it was hard to accept that it would be improbable for me to accomplish my previous goals because my illness took away so many of my physical abilities," says Cazier. His wish of becoming a model also seemed out of reach.

But Macy's and Make-A-Wish didn't see it like that. Once they learned about Cazier's wish, they knew he had to make it come true by inviting him to be part of the magical Macy's holiday shoot in New York.

Courtesy of Macy's

Make-A-Wish can't fulfill children's wishes without the generosity of donors and partners like Macy's. In fact, since 2003, Macy's has given more than $122 million to Make-A-Wish and impacted the lives of more than 2.9 million people.

Cazier's wish experience was beyond what he could've imagined, and it filled him with so much joy and confidence. "It is like waking up and discovering that you have super powers. It feels amazing!" he exclaims.

One of the best parts about the day for him was the kindness everyone who helped make it happen showed him.

"The employees of Macy's and Make-A-Wish made me feel welcome, warm, and cared for," he says. "I am truly grateful that even though they were busy doing their jobs, they were able to show kindness and compassion towards me in all of the little details."

He also got to spend part of the shoot outdoors, which, as someone who loves climbing, hiking, and scuba-diving but has trouble doing those activities now, was very welcome.

Courtesy of Macy's

Overall, Cazier feels he grew a lot during his modeling wish and is now emboldened to work towards a better quality of life. "I want to acquire skills that help me continue to improve in these circumstances," he says.

You can change the lives of more kids like Cazier just by writing a letter to Santa and dropping it in the big red letterbox at Macy's (you can also write and submit one online). For every letter received before Dec. 24, 2019, Macy's will donate $1 to Make-A-Wish, up to $1 million. By writing a letter to Santa, you can help a child replace fear with confidence, sadness with joy, and anxiety with hope.

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Women's rights over their own bodies are currently being threatened by a rapidly growing number of states in America. Sadly, they're also not being protected as they should be by some of its most prestigious educational institutions.

Back in 2016, a young women at Princeton University who's chosen to remain anonymous was raped by a male student. Last year, she reported the incident and her assaulter to the school’s Title IX office — a facility designed to protect students from gender-based violence and harassment on campus — in hopes of getting some sort of justice. The school, however, concluded that the male student in question did not commit the act the young woman said he did, and she lost the case. She filed an appeal, but lost that too a month later.

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