As Phoebe and I were working hard to raise money to get her to the National Miss Amazing Pageant in Chicago in August, we were gaining exposure to a lot of different avenues in the disabilities arena. She was making new friends like never before!
She was invited to speak at the Action Club at the ARC and made some new friends there as well as other new places. She attended Tim Tebow's Night to Shine Prom for people with disabilities. This was her first ever prom. She met a lot of people there too and made some new friends that are very close and strong friends still today.
I remember the day I sat on my hospital bed holding her, looking into those beautiful green eyes and thinking to myself, "She will probably never go to a prom." That was partially ignorance on my part and partially from what hospital staff had been saying -- not to have my expectations set too high. It's good thing I snapped out of that and realized I was honored to be chosen to be this special girl's mom and I was going to do all I could to be sure she had every opportunity to shine in whatever she could. Here she was, going to prom!
She continued fundraising and getting closer to her goal to make it to Chicago for the National Miss Amazing Pageant. We bought our airfare, a new gown for the pageant, and made our hotel reservations. Phoebe was practicing choreography for her talent portion, still giving speeches and making appearances up until it was time to go to Chicago. We continued to tell everyone through social media, phone calls, and emails, asking for donations to help us get there.
Finally, the day arrived to leave for Chicago. What a day it started out to be! We drove our 50 minute drive out to the airport and started to get out of the car, when I realized I forgot my I.D.!!! We had to go back and get it (we found out later there are ways to get around that!) and I won't tell you how many laws were broken to get home and back in time to be the last people boarding our plane. I was once again acquainted with humility, as I pride myself way too much regarding having all my ducks in a row and everything organized. I forgot my I.D!!! After that, everything else went smoothly.
When we arrived at the Grand Hyatt O'Hare, we went to our room, proceeded to decorate our hotel room door (thank goodness I found out BEFORE the trip about decorating your door being a pageant thing! How would I know??!) and ordered room service for dinner. It was nice just relaxing before all the other friends and family arrived the next day.
As soon as it was time to register in the morning, Phoebe began making new friends just standing in line. Girls and women were passing out their little photo post cards (another pageant thing I didn't know about) and introducing themselves and availing themselves for photo ops. They all started immediately bonding. I had never seen anything like this. There was no staring, whispering, or cattiness, like I had always imagined a pageant atmosphere to be. It was warm and friendly and the girls were all so diverse and beautiful. There was no lack of conversation. And soon I was finding myself talking to other parents as well and exchanging information. We all had something in common: our beautiful daughters in an inclusive, loving, accepting environment making friends with each other -- all ages, all sizes, all disabilities -- and ALL BEAUTIFUL! Some in wheelchairs, some non-verbal, some that you couldn't even tell they had a disability! It didn't matter. We were all family.