Md. mother's 'Smile, Don't Stare' campaign seeks to create inclu - KMSP-TV

Md. mother's 'Smile, Don't Stare' campaign seeks to create inclusion for disabled children

Posted: Updated:
ROCKVILLE, Md. -

There are three million disabled children in the United States. But one Maryland mother is trying to make her son's life easier -- one smile at a time.

Ryan is a young man with a traumatic brain injury. But how do people "see" him?

Ryan’s mother, Debbie Sahlin, says people stare. She has even been kicked out of a public park.

She was told, “Why would you take a child like that swimming anyway?”

Some families don't even want to go out in public.

“They go home crying -- the parents. I just can't live with that,” said Sahlin.

So she started the Lollipop Kids Foundation and a new campaign called “Smile, Don't Stare.”

Shannon Kennedy is one of the teenagers who has taken a pledge to smile, don't stare. Shannon's little sister, Molly, had a disability and died in 2013.

“People would stare and judge her,” said Kennedy. “I knew my sister more than they did. It hurt me more than it hurt her.”

While these teens are wishing for cars and college acceptance letters, others just want to be acknowledged.

“The little boy, he had a sign that said, 'I wish [kids] would ask my name.' I feel like that's something we take for granted,” said another teen named that made the pledge.

“These children are going to teach you more than anyone on the face of the Earth,” said Sahlin. “They fight. None of us know how to fight the way these kids do. Their patience, they don't the meanness that society has. They don't know evil. They don’t know lying. They don't know deceit. They're just so wonderful.”

If you are a parent, odds are you have experience it. You are out in public place and your child notices someone with a disability.

Your tendency might be to shush your child. But Sahlin said that sends a dangerous message about people with disabilities.

She said, “From then on out, that little child is thinking, 'Ew. They're over there. They're separated.’ That's where the isolation occurs.”

Sahlin said it is easier than you think. Smile, don't stare.

“When somebody walks by and just smiles at us and smiles at my son, it's just this feeling of acceptance,” she said.

“Big difference,” said Kennedy. “It makes them feel wanted. It makes them feel acknowledged, like they belong.”

Online:

http://www.lollipopkidsfoundation.org/smile-dont-stare/

  • Latest health newsMore>>

  • Race for Every Child: Elliott's Story

    Race for Every Child: Elliott's Story

    Friday, September 12 2014 8:50 PM EDT2014-09-13 00:50:04 GMT
    Having a child with a serious illness or disability is overwhelming. Imagine dealing with that crisis and not really having many answers about how to treat it or what the future holds.
    Having a child with a serious illness or disability is overwhelming. Imagine dealing with that crisis and not really having many answers about how to treat it or what the future holds.
  • 'Cancer Boy' now cancer-free and publishing book with his classmates

    'Cancer Boy' now cancer-free and publishing book with his classmates

    Tuesday, September 9 2014 9:05 PM EDT2014-09-10 01:05:59 GMT
    We have a very happy follow up to a story we brought you last year. It is the story of a young Virginia boy who had a brain tumor. We were touched by the love his classmates showed him and they are still spreading love.
    We have a very happy follow up to a story we brought you last year. It is the story of a young Virginia boy who had a brain tumor. We were touched by the love his classmates showed him and they are still spreading love.
  • Huge turnout for free dental care clinic at UMD

    Huge turnout for free dental care clinic at UMD

    Friday, September 5 2014 6:48 PM EDT2014-09-05 22:48:16 GMT
    Nearly 800 people received free dental care at a clinic held at the University of Maryland on Friday. More than 1,000 other people were turned away at the door once the event reached capacity, but organizers say it continues Saturday from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m.  
    Nearly 800 people received free dental care at a clinic held at the University of Maryland on Friday. More than 1,000 other people were turned away at the door once the event reached capacity, but organizers say it continues Saturday from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m.  

Powered by WorldNow

KMSP-TV
11358 Viking Drive
Eden Prairie, MN 55344

Phone: (952) 944-9999
Fax: (952) 942-0455

Didn't find what you were looking for?
All content © Copyright 2000 - 2014 Fox Television Stations, Inc. and Worldnow. All Rights Reserved.
Privacy Policy | New Terms of Service What's new | Ad Choices