Sunday, June 9, 2013

The Wonder of Wonder

Contagious acts of kindness started taking place in classrooms around the country this school year.  Many teachers were inspired to read the book Wonder by R.J. Palacio with their students.  For the classes that read the book, the message will remain with them forever:  Choose Kind.  

CCA was thrilled to come across such a positive story about a young boy living with a facial difference and wished to give it our full support.  We have always wanted to develop an educational outreach program to schools, and Wonder gave us the bridge to do finally do it.  Throughout this school year, CCA offered supportive materials to teachers, promoted the book on our website (, launched the "Choose Kind Challenge", offered to connect students with real-life Auggies, and developed simple and inexpensive merchandise for kids to show off their support.

From simply reading this book, random acts of kindness toward those living with craniofacial differences is happening. For the first time, our CCA kids have a platform that is encouraging them to be proud of and show off their differences.

I witnessed so many amazing things transpire this school year!  Like this photo, for example, of students leaning in to be close to Peter after hearing our "Beyond the Face is a Heart" presentation.  These students are definitely not showing any fear of getting the "Stinky Cheese Touch or Plague!"  How amazing is that?

Peter Dankelson with Students from Power Upper Elementary in Michigan
May 2013
I've watched student-created tribute videos like these that honor CCA kids.

Standing Ovation for CCA WonderKid Peter from 5th Graders in Baltimore

I've been brought to tears by student thank you notes like these from 4th & 5th graders at Pine Knob Elementary in Michigan.

Thank you so much for coming in to talk to us!  I learned a lot about being different and how it feels.  You are an awesome kid, you are very, very brave.  Also, thanks for telling us and reminding our class that you shouldn't judge someone on the outside,
because it's what's on the inside.  From, Chloe

Thanks so much for stopping by our class, Peter!  Your presentation really made an impact on my life!  You're a really funny guy!
I hope you have a great summer and cross your fingers and hope you get picked to star in Wonder!  From, Matthew

Dear Peter, Thank you for coming into our classroom on Thursday.  You really enforced the choose kind rule.  Also you are a brave boy because of how many surgeries you have went through and how you come places to talk about CCA.
Lastly, I thank you for giving us the bracelets.  You're a great kid.  Sincerely, Owen
Thanks Peter for coming in and telling us about CCA.  You told us a lot.  Guess what, when I got home I searched Auggie on the Internet and a picture of you came up.  You're famous!  Your Friend, Grace!

To Peter, Thank you for coming in to our class.  You were brave to come and talk about what you have.  Is CCA in Michigan or out of the state?  Do you like going to different places?  You are so funny!  I wish I had a remote and could rewind that whole presentation because that was really fun.  Do you know Mrs. Conner because I am her son.  I am so glad you could come here.  I hope you can come here when I am in 5th grade so I can see this again.  Do you want to play Auggie in the movie Wonder if they make the movie?
My Mom says Hi.  By, Jack
Even though you look different you have a big heart (no name)

Peter, thanks for coming in and sharing such valuable lessons that you have learned over the years.  We all really appreciated it.
It was very special meeting you.  Thank you for all the great stories and lessons!  They taught us a lot!!  Thanks, Abbey

Dear Peter, Thanks so much for coming to our classroom.  I would love to see you again so you can tell us more about yourself.  I really want to read the book Wonder and I hope you get picked to play the role of Auggie.  I don't care what you look like!
I care about the inside!  Your friend, Lily
Dear Peter, Thank you for coming in and teaching us about the CCA and yourself.  It does not matter what is on the outside, it matters what's on the inside and you are beautiful on the outside.  Sincerely, Ally

Thank You.  Dear Peter, You are the best kid I've ever known and your presentation was the best.  And I learned that the looks don't matter, the character matters so thank you.  Your buddy, Kyle
Peter - Thank you for coming in.  I learned a lot about you.  You are such a brave kid to have all those surgeries.
From, Alana (who also drew the "Everyone is Different" picture
Dear Peter, Thank you for coming to our classroom.  You made a big impact on me... even though you can look different,
everyone should be treated the same and with kindness.  Sincerely, Stephen
And, these Thank you notes from Portola Hills Elementary in California... Peter Reading Thank You #1 and Thank you #2.

I've read newspaper articles like these covering the book and creating awareness about CCA.

Newspaper story about how CCA Mom, April Gorman, inspired her community to read Wonder Wonder the book: Choose to be Kind published in Lake Highlands Texas paper

Newspaper story covering CCA's "Beyond the Face is a Heart" presentation to students Student Brings Touch of Wonder to School published in Farmington Michigan Observer

I've seen entire communities read Wonder and then embrace CCA's vision of "a world where all people are accepted for who they are, not how they look".  The cities of Santa Monica, Naperville, Rhode Island, and Tacoma are just a few that hosted community reads of Wonder and then passed out CCA literature at book discussions and author visits (R.J. Palacio visits Santa Monica)

I've witnessed students complete CCA's "Choose Kind Challenge" by donating their own money in support of kids like Auggie.  

Students from Sweet Home Middle School in New York bought CCA's Choose Kind wristbands

Students from St. Patrick School in Michigan donated over $400 and
purchased wristbands, buttons & bookmarks

Wonder is an incredible tool that teaches kids about empathy and kindness; it is destined to become part of every school's curriculum.  I have no doubt that acts similar to those mentioned here will occur in classrooms next school year.  CCA's own "Kindness Ambassadors", who are sharing the story of Wonder and bravely showing off their differences, are the real-life heroes who are making a positive impact in their schools and communities.  Bravo to these teachers, students, libraries, and CCA Families everywhere.  As Summer would say, "You are all "Cool Beans!"

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