Five years ago, a Myrtle Beach, N.C. firefighter responded to an emergency call that changed his life.
On November 14, 2011, Marc Hadden and his colleagues responded to a call from a woman seeking help for severe abdominal pains. When the firefighters arrived at the scene, they discovered that the woman was in labor.
“It was a pretty serious call for us,” Hadden said. “We got her on some oxygen, started some IVs and literally as we were getting ready to leave the parking lot in the ambulance, my partner said, ‘We’re about to deliver a baby right here.’ We had no time to prepare. Before we could do anything — we hadn’t even cut her clothes — Gracie came right out. Immediately she was handed to me.”
At the hospital, Hadden learned that the baby’s birth mother was placing her for adoption. Hadden and his wife had been hoping for a third child and took the opportunity.
Two days later, Gracie went home with the Haddens. In March 2012, the Haddens got full custody of Gracie and named her Rebecca Grace Hadden.
Now Gracie is 5 years old and an active kid.
“She’s amazing,” Hadden said. “She takes gymnastics, she’s getting ready to start kindergarten next year at the school where my wife teaches. She’s a pretty remarkable kid.”
Gracie has two older brothers: Parker, 12 and Will, 14.
Gracie’s parents made sure that Gracie knew her birth story.
“We have never hidden it from her,” Hadden said. “If you ask her where she was born, she says, ‘My daddy delivered me in the back of an ambulance.’ She knows the whole story. I wanted her to know as soon as she was old enough to understand. I didn’t want it to be this huge surprise. It still breaks my heart to think of one day having to explain it to her more in depth … because she doesn’t really 100% get it.”
When that time comes, Gracie will have the support of her family.
“She is part of our family and that is absolutely the way it is,” Hadden said. “We love her.”
A new program in King County, Washington is providing support to families of fussy newborns. The Fussy Baby Network connects parents of overly fussy newborns with support and resources.
Erin MacDougall and her husband reached out to the Fussy Baby Network when their daughter, Sadie, was eight weeks old and cried at a more frequent than normal basis.
“It was 15 times a day when we would have explosive crying sessions,” said MacDougall. “It’s very difficult to describe to someone, if they’ve never experienced it directly, when you have someone crying at the top of their lungs at you all day long. I don’t know how anyone would not feel like you would lose your control.”
MacDougall was at a loss of ways to soothe her daughter and felt helpless in the situation.
“I just kept holding her and loving her and hoping it would be OK, it was very hard,” MacDougall said.
While all newborns cry, The Fussy Baby Network estimates that one-in-five babies is fussy and this impacts the parents’ attitudes towards the child and prevents bonding.
The Fussy Baby Network’s support program begins with a visit to the family’s home to identify needs and possible ways to help.
“It’s really centered on whatever the parent’s urgent concern is” Clinician Emily Anderson explained. “It’s really, really painful to be with a baby who you’re trying to help and they’re just not responding. Our message is: we don’t want anyone to worry alone.”
The network helps parents look for ways to soothe their crying child and provides emotional support to give parents hope that they can connect with their child.
After eight months of participating in the program, MacDougall began to see improvements with her daughter. Sadie now has a strong bond with her parents and older sister.
“I feel like it saved me” MacDougall said. “I don’t know if I would have made it past the deep anxiety and frustration I was experiencing.”
MacDougall encourages other parents to get support early to avoid becoming overwhelmed. “Parents need so much more help than they’re getting to thrive as a family and when you have a fussy baby; you need layers upon layers of more help,” MacDougall said.
Millions of children across the country are participating in the Great Kindness Challenge, a grassroots campaign aimed at spreading happiness and strengthening community in schools.
The campaign was started by Jill McManigal of Carlsbad, California, for her two children and their neighborhood friends. From there, the group created “Kids for Peace,” an international non-profit that launched the Great Kindness Challenge.
“My inspiration is creating a world where everyone is loved and cared for and happy. The mission of the Great Kindness Challenge is to create a school environments where all students thrive,” said McManigal. “We want all children and all students to recognize the goodness in others, and this gives them the platform to do that.”
As part of the challenge, children in schools and youth groups set out to accomplish as many acts of kindness possible, from a list of fifty acts, over the course of a week. Some challenges are simple such as smiling at 25 people and others, such as sitting with someone new at lunch, encourage students to step out of their comfort zones.
In 2012, McManigal brought the challenge to three schools in her community. In 2013, the challenge grew and 263 schools participated. This year, over 12,000 schools and more than 10 million children across the country are participating. The materials needed to participate in the challenge are free for schools.
The challenge is positively impacting schools and communities across the country. Teachers have noticed that the challenge helps students become more aware of their words and actions, creating a healthier learning environment.
“As the children are given permission to go out there and really exert their kindness,” said McManigal. “It creates this joy that is palpable on campuses.”
A London couple is giving back to a homeless man who helped them one cold night.
On January 4, Charlotte Ellis and her boyfriend, Taylor Walden, were returning home after a night out when they missed their train. The next train was scheduled to come four hours later and the couple found themselves stranded at the station in the cold.
That was when Joey, a homeless man, offered to help. “You can borrow my coat and duvet if you want? It’s a long wait and it’s freezing tonight,” Joey said.
Joey’s offer was very much welcomed. “I jump straight under the duvet and thank Joey for his kind offer as Taylor gives me the look,” said Charlotte. “After Taylor and I sat with Joey waiting for our train, there was just something about him that was so sincere I couldn’t leave him out there on his own.”
Charlotte wanted to give back to Joey for his kindness and asked if he would like to stay the night at her and her mother’s place to shower and have a hot meal. Joey was hesitant at first but accepted the offer.
“No one deserves to be out in these conditions. I’m not saying that you should trust everyone you meet on a street corner, but who exactly should you trust?” said Charlotte.
Charlotte, Taylor, and Joey passed the time by talking and sharing stories about their lives. By the end of the night, they had bonded and become friends. Joey offered the coat to Taylor as a token of appreciation.
“In my eyes this gift had such a powerful meaning behind it more than any ever gift you could ever receive,” said Charlotte.
Joey was given a warm welcome by Charlotte’s family and friends who offered him a new haircut, wardrobe, and phone as well as a warm place to stay. Within five days of going home with the couple, Joey got a job.
“All he needed was someone to have faith in him and to help be that stepping stone to make a difference to someone’s life. Joey is the most amazing, caring and incredible human that we have ever met, and I’m so blessed to of been a part of getting him off the streets,” said Charlotte.
A Portland store aims to show that dads play an active role in parenting. The store, Seahorses, was opened in 2015 by Don Hudson, a father of four.
Hudson opened the store to challenge the stereotype that dads are babysitters rather than parents involved in raising their kids.
“It’s an insult,” Hudson said. “We’re not babysitting. We’re parenting. They’re our kids.”
Hudson named the store Seahorses after the important role that seahorse fathers have in parenting their offspring. Through Seahorses, Hudson hopes to give dads a way to voice their own reflections on parenting. The store sells strollers, baby carriers, diaper bags, and toys. Hudson described the products as “practical, “innovative,” and intended to “make life easier.”
In addition to the store, Seahorses is a space for families and the community. Seahorses hosts events such as dad workshops, parenting playdates, baby sign language classes, and preschool cooking classes.
“The back half of the place, that’s where I’ve got my enclosed kids’ area with the countertops where dads ― or moms ― can sit around and use the Wi-Fi and have a cup of coffee, let the kids play for a minute, take a break from parenting for five minutes and breathe,” Hudson said.
The store is making a difference in the community and has even been named one of the best places in Portland to shop for kids.
Hudson hopes to bring Seahorses to communities across the country and is proud of its impact on the Portland community.
“We’ve successfully conveyed the message that dads are competent parents. We’re not a bunch of bumbling idiots like the media portrays,” Hudson said. “If you leave the kid alone with dad, he’s not going to be home stuck to the wall. Not everyone puts sharpie marker on their kids’ eyebrows just to get a good picture out of it. We’re in the trenches, too.”