The Miracle League

Beau & Bitty love to play baseball.

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Maybe it’s because they love the sound of cheering fans.

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Maybe it’s because nothing feels better than sliding into home base.

10320441_10153018559834068_6573829937549912096_nOr maybe, it’s because the Miracle Field is a place where everyone can play.

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Want to see what happens at the Miracle Field?

 Check out this awesome video made by Beau & Bitty’s big sister,  Emma Grace.

The Miracle Field – by Little Peanut Pictures

“This is my heaven” ~ Best Buddies Leadership Conference

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The air was electric. Standing shoulder to shoulder in a packed auditorium, my voice joined the chorus of cheering fans. With fists pumping high in the air, a new generation of leaders was being born – a generation that collectively refuses to accept the status quo and is prepared to lead a charge – a charge to create a world that embraces what makes each of us unique and in doing so realizes the possibilities when we pledge to live unified.

As I scanned the crowd of faces, I couldn’t help but become fixated on one young woman in particular – and not because it was my daughter, Lillie. Sandwiched in between her peers with different abilities, Lillie had a peace about her that I’ve become accustomed to seeing. It’s the kind of peace that overwhelms, overcomes and overflows when human kind is in perfect harmony.  And no one could deny our packed auditorium was in perfect harmony – after all, this was Best Buddies.

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In the hours and days that followed our Best Buddies Leadership Conference opening ceremony, we were instructed, encouraged and inspired by individuals that exemplify Best Buddies’ mission – to establish a global volunteer movement that creates opportunities for one-to-one friendships, integrated employment and leadership development for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

Throughout the weekend, people with different abilities were not only included, they were celebrated. From the unified basketball game, to the closing ceremony, people with intellectual and developmental disabilities were the centerpiece of our conference. Perhaps my favorite moment of the conference took place at the Closing Ceremonies. This is where I witnessed several Buddy Ambassadors find their voice, stand behind a podium and deliver a personally written speech to an audience of several thousand people. I think the young man sitting next to me, who happened to have Down syndrome, summed up the evening best when he said “This is my heaven.”

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Looking forward to growing with the Best Buddies family as our daughter, Lillie, establishes the first Best Buddies high school chapter in the state of NC.

Brava, Bitty! You are a dancer!

ImageI sat peering through the lens of my camera as the red velvet curtain pulled back.  I‘d been waiting for this moment since the day Bitty was born.  The sound of “Chattanooga Choo Choo” began to fill the auditorium as the crowd hushed.  This was her moment – a chance to step into the spotlight and prove that she was not only able, she was worthy. 

Tucked behind the cutout of a train, Bitty stood with her peers waiting for a cue from her teacher to take her position on stage.

And then it happened.

Without hesitation, Bitty’s million-dollar smile peered out from behind the caboose as she proudly made her stage debut.

ImageI quickly glanced down the audience row where her brother, sisters and daddy sat just to see the look on their faces – that look you get when you realize a piece of your heart is walking outside your body.  It’s a look we’ve become accustomed to in our family.

A look that reminds me that the greatest blessing we have is each other.

From that moment forward, I have no idea how the rest of the dancers performed because I couldn’t take my eyes off of Bitty – and I don’t think I was the only one. Although some girls tapped louder and kicked higher, it was Bitty that held the audience captive with her joyful spirit and beautiful expression of dance.

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As the crowd erupted in applause, I was reminded that humanity is hungry for moments like these – moments that change our hearts and our minds.

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Perhaps the best moment of all was watching her brother, Beau — who insisted on wearing his “handsome jacket” — push his way through the crowd to deliver a bouquet of flowers to her from our garden.

Brava, Bitty! You are a dancer!

Special Olympics 2014 – Wilmington, NC

Our 13 year old daughter, Emma Grace, has been blessed with many talents – one of which is creating beautiful videos that capture some of life’s best moments. I think what makes each of her projects so special is the way that she tells a story. As one of Beau and Bitty’s big sisters, she knows how to watch for the little moments – after all, those are the moments that matter the most. Learn more about her company, Little Peanut Pictures by visiting her on FB. https://www.facebook.com/pages/Little-Peanut-Pictures/1392459064329990
Enjoy!

A Revolution of Acceptance

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From a distance, I could see the car approaching through a sea of cheering spectators. Perched high, as if on top of the world, and waving to the crowd, Beau stood proudly alongside his “brother”, Jacob. This much anticipated day had finally arrived – Beau & Jacob were making their celebrity appearances together at the North Carolina Azalea Festival.

For the past 67 years, our coastal town of Wilmington, NC, has hosted the North Carolina Azalea Festival – a celebration of the history and culture of our region. Each year, the Festival committee extends invitations to a variety of celebrities to come be a part of the celebration. Throughout the years, celebrity guests have included Andy Griffith, Kelly Ripa and even President Ronald Reagan.   Each of these past celebrities has shared their unique talents and abilities with our community, but I feel certain that this year’s Festival was truly ground breaking because our community decided to honor Beau – a little boy who continues to prove to the world that a diagnosis does not define a person – as a celebrity.  To the best of my knowledge, this was the first time in Festival history that someone with an intellectual disability has been invited to be a celebrity at the Festival, but I can assure you that it won’t be the last.

I am convinced of this because I witnessed first hand countless moments that changed people’s perceptions and won over their hearts.

Moments like the roaring applause Beau received when he was introduced at one of our local elementary schools.

Moments like the steady stream of fans that lined up eager to get Beau’s autograph.

Moments like watching Beau interact with patients at the hospital – bringing much needed joy to a room full of despair.

Moments like the hugs and high fives Beau shared on the dance floor with the boys and girls at the Brigade Club after school program.

And most especially, the moments that happened along a crowded parade route as cheering spectators showed their support and encouragement and in doing so, became part of a revolution of acceptance.

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Dear NBC, why no coverage of the other 7,000 Olympic athletes?

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Beau Wright, Special Olympics 2013

 

Dear NBC, why no coverage of the other 7,000 Olympic athletes?

Every two years, the world comes together for a few weeks to celebrate the accomplishments of some of our greatest athletes. Athletes that have trained their whole lives to be the very best they can be.  Athletes that have sacrificed, prepared and prevailed.  Athletes that inspire – that remind us that dreams really do come true.  And when these athletes step onto the global stage, we all watch with great anticipation – or do we?

In 2015, 7,000 athletes from 170 countries will gather for the Special Olympics’ World Games in the city of Los Angeles, CA.  The athletes will compete in 25 different sporting events and be cheered on by nearly 600,000 spectators, coaches and volunteers.  There will be plenty of medals for sure, but the real victories will be a result of the athletes overcoming obstacles and in doing so proving that anything is possible when you are brave in the attempt.  Sadly, this display of bravery won’t be seen by people all over the world like the Olympic Games in Sochi – because this is the Special Olympic World Games and it has yet to find a home on network television.

And while this is not surprising in a world that can still find justification in the use of the “r-word”, my greatest frustration arises from the fact that you, NBC, the same network that has exclusive rights to airing the Olympic Games, will also be airing the 2014 Paralympic Games with an unprecedented 50 hours of network coverage.

For the record, I believe your decision to air the Paralympic Games is more than good news.  The athletes, who have risen above their physical disabilities and visual impairments to catapult to the top of their sport, deserve this global recognition and I, along with my family will be watching with great anticipation.  My issue with this decision stems from the fact that people with intellectual and developmental disabilities deserve this same opportunity to show the world what they are capable of. 

More than 200 million people worldwide are living with an intellectual disability – nearly 6.5 million in the United States alone.  It’s time we recognize these people as valuable, capable and worthy.  It’s time we stop marginalizing their abilities and embrace the fact that their differences are an integral part of the fabric of our society.  It’s time we, as citizens of the United States, give these 6.5 million  people the same opportunities every other citizen is afforded through education, medical care, employment opportunities, social acceptance and even our media coverage.  It’s time that people living with intellectual and developmental disabilities’ accomplishments are treated with the same importance and recognition that we give our typically developing population.  It’s time that the Special Olympics World Games is given network coverage just like the Olympic and Paralymic Games.

Undeniably, one of the most memorable moments of the 2014 Olympics so far, has been the moment when Canadian mogul skier, Alex Bilodeau, clinched a second Olympic gold medal while his brother, Frederic, who happens to have cerebral palsy, cheered him on from the stands.  This story has inspired our nation and so many others.  Just imagine for a moment the inspiration we could all gleam from watching Alex cheer for his brother, Frederic, as he tried for gold at the Special Olympic World Games.

Respectfully yours,

Amy Wright (proud mother of Beau & Bitty, Special Olympic athletes)

http://www.ItStartsWithAVoice.com

Beau Shines at Sundance

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Our great adventure began nearly seven months ago as the sun rose on a field covered in waist high grass and morning dew.  In the hills of West Virginia, surrounded by cameras and crew, Beau began filming what he would forever refer to as “his movie”, LITTLE ACCIDENTS.

What brought us to this moment in time is what I believe to be an answered prayer – an opportunity for Beau to carve out his own place in the world.

As the cameras rolled, Ben & I stood in amazement watching our little boy transcend the reality of what surrounded him and transform into an actor.  Grasping tightly to the hand of a young man that Beau was proud to call his “brother”, Beau and Jacob became the Briggs brothers.

For the next six weeks, Beau poured himself into the experience of movie making.  From memorizing his lines to taking direction, Beau proved to himself and everyone else that he was not only capable of the job, but worthy.

As a boy with Down syndrome, these affirming sentiments are often reserved for his peers that can run faster and jump higher, but on the set of LITTLE ACCIDENTS, Beau had his chance to shine.

And he’s been shining ever since – never more brightly than this past week when LITTLE ACCIDENTS made its world premiere at the Sundance Film Festival. 

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I can’t begin to describe what it felt like to see our little boy appear larger than life on a movie screen or to see him walk the red carpet, but I can tell you that because of this experience Beau has not only carved out a place in the world for himself, he has shown the world that having Down syndrome is just one of the things that makes him extra special.

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See Beau’s SUNDANCE experience captured on video by his sister, Emma Grace, by clicking the link below.

https://vimeo.com/84929600

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