When you think of someone wearing a cape, who comes to your mind? Is it a fictional character who is seen and known as a hero? A character who is tall and built, wearing a mask motivated out of an altruistic desire to help others? Or do you think of someone you know in real life who wears an invisible cape? Maybe it is someone who you look up to in your personal life, someone who you admire because they have overcome an event causing great suffering, or have survived a horrendous experience.
Sometimes Bella is called a hero, and this has always stopped me in my tracks because I’m still confused about what society defines as a hero. What is it about Bella that makes people take note to admire and adore her? When I share Bella’s journey with others, I’m often hearing comments like “I don’t know how you do it, because if I were you I wouldn’t be able to.” or “I’m so sorry for you. You’re so strong.” These comments have always made me feel uneasy, as people gaze upon her in absolute astonishment and want to reward her with their love and respect for her triumph over tragedy.
Let’s be honest, our family’s life of challenges root from Bella, but it is far from a tragedy. As she does go through more than most typical children, please know that this is her life and this is our life too. Bella is a kid. She is a person first, whose value is simply based on a foundation that she is a human being existing in the body she was born into, forced to face any challenge that comes her way. She does not exist in our community for anyone to show her off as a status symbol, to flaunt how righteous or 'inclusive' they are. Please know that we are very grateful for this life we have.
I’ve learned that being grateful means finding joy in every day. I am not the perfect parent, as one of my biggest fault is getting caught in my self-created tornado, always trying to be the best in everything I do. This is true in how I carry myself in my profession as a teacher. I often throw myself into this destructive state, getting lost in my job trying to be savvy, progressive, and success-oriented. Then I glance at a photo of Bella and her brother Petie, and this vortex of a violent storm quickly dissipates. I immediately stop, and am reminded to be grateful for what matters most, my family.
Maybe it’s time to redefine what a hero looks, sounds, and feels like. I understand that people may be impressed with Bella’s resilience, and want to express that, however I want to affirm her worth and value as a person, rather than on a milestone or hurdle she has overcome. For me, heroism doesn’t require great accomplishments, physical strength, or a demand of excellence. Bella is my hero because she is simply proud to be different.
Bella gives clarity on my path as I am reminded that her differences continue to help me heal, grow, and continue to seek out the true meaning of happiness. She is my hero because her smile emulates her pride to have the freedom to be complicated and complex. I admire and adore her, because in a world of societal standards that devalues disabilities, this 10-year-old hero makes the choice to not be anyone but herself.
“Holland Bloorview is Canada’s largest children’s rehabilitation hospital and a fully affiliated teaching hospital with the University of Toronto. We create a world of possibilities by supporting children and youth living with disability, medical complexity, illness and injury. More than 8,300 kids and youth come through our doors each year as inpatients and outpatients to receive innovative treatments, therapies and specialized programs and services.”
For more information about Holland Bloorview, click here.
From March 2nd to 8th, you will see many kids, youth, and adults flaunting their capes to show their support in the Capes for Kids campaign. Your support will fund vital research, programs, and services at Holland Bloorview that transform the lives of kids with disabilities and their families. Check out this video to learn more on how you can join forces with us to help raise funds for research, education, and care at Holland Bloorview.
Here’s how can you support and empower families who live with disabilities, and take the initiative to help make our community an accepting, inclusive space for ALL families
Show others with your actions and words how we can unite to redefine the beauty of disabilities and celebrate our differences.
If you know a friend or family member who is navigating the world while living with a disability, take the time to listen. Take the time to build a relationship of trust and respect.
Share your voice on your choice of social media, and don't forget to tag @HBKidsHospital #CapesForKids @andreahaefele #MomBehindTheLabel!
Thank you to our Bloorview family for allowing Bella & Kadence to be part of the Capes for Kids campaign. I am excited to continue my advocacy to take a stand for what is right, and to share my voice as it always starts with my heart. We are all worth the conversation.
Bella showing off her beads with the Capes For Kids photoshoot crew.
Bella, Kadence, and Sandra Hawken, President & CEO of the Holland Bloorview Foundation strutting their capes.
Just a girl and her service dog :)
During this week, and the month of March you will be able to see Bella along with many other Bloorview ambassadors sharing their story through different social media channels.
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