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Getting to know Charlotte

Last evening I attended the Newtown Kindness Awards Ceremony in Connecticut. But before I tell you about the evening, I want to rewind here for a bit: I Googled to learn who Charlotte Bacon was on December sixth, when I received an email about Tate’s nomination for the Charlotte Bacon Kindness Awards. I did not learn much about Charlotte’s life when I searched the Internet but I did see stories about her death. However, last night I got a pretty good feel for whom Charlotte really was. I now know she was funny and sweet and often involved in mischief. I know her favorite color was pink. I know she wanted to be a vet some day, she loved dogs, and had a collection of stuffed dogs. I know she was loved by many people and adored by her own dog named, Lily, whom she loved in return. All evening I kept thinking, “She sounds a lot like my Sydney.” They would have been friends had they known each other.

Although I did not know who Charlotte Bacon was, ironically, I could recall the name of the young man who took her life. How wrong is that? The reason I remembered his name is because three years ago the media covered the story for days, plastering his name and face everywhere and alleging the reason he committed the horrible act was because he had autism. Our family is affected by autism and when autism is in the media it gets my attention. How much better would it have been for the media to remain very quiet about the name of the killer and instead be covering the kindnesses that have happened as a result of that incident? I now know there have been many. You might like to read more about Charlotte and the Newtown Kindness awards here:

Charlotte’s parents would like her to be remembered for her life, not her death. To honor Charlotte’s life and to keep her memory alive they celebrate her birthday every year in an amazing way. They recognize children for their acts of kindness. Tate was nominated for a kindness award with his friends Ethan and Jordan after I wrote a thank you note to those boys and their classmates for their friendship with Tate. That thank you letter was published, and People Magazine did a story on the boys and the lunch buddy program. That article got the attention of a nice lady named Lara who nominated the boys for the award. Although thousands of children were nominated, only around forty were chosen to receive awards.

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Seeing Tate standing on the stage tonight was such a proud moment for me. But, it was not only about the kindness factor. Tate has autism and before the ceremony began Tate was anxious. Tate has a lot of sensory issues and he was aggravated because I had dressed him in a shirt he did not like. He was annoyed because I had made him leave his treasured hoodie and cap at the hotel. He had just found out that his beloved watch was an hour off due to the time change, but he couldn’t decide if he wanted it on Connecticut time or Kansas time. And to top it all off, I could not tell him exactly what to expect or give him a solid timeframe for the evening’s events so he was nervous. Needless to say, Tate was stimming. Tate’s stims (stereotypic behaviors) can cause him to appear pretty odd to people who do not know him or understand autism. He grimaces and stiffens his arms and he talks about movies. For the hour leading up to the ceremony I must have heard several dozen times that the movie “Home” comes out March 27th in theaters and Tate reviewed with me who does all the main characters’ voices. Then he would rotate something about “Big Hero Six” and its DVD release date into the mix. I had resigned myself to seeing Tate stand on stage and stim. I knew everyone would be understanding. After all, we were in an auditorium with four hundred people who were promoting kindness. But, I still reassured and coached as best I could, hoping he’d be able to pull it off.