It started small.

I happened to see a post from a business on Facebook that they had entered a contest.

A grant contest.

A $25,000 grant contest.

From FedEx.

My eyes got big.

Our nonprofit SenseAbility Gym needed that grant.

Our community needed that grant.

I filled out the online forms and told my business partner Tina about it.  I casually mentioned it at our last board of directors meeting.  As an aside.  Like a “Hey, I don’t know how this thing all works, but I filled out the info and we’ll see if we’re accepted.”

On November 14, I saw our logo listed on the site.  My heart jumped.

I shared it with some incredible amazing fantastic wonderful friends.  Seriously.  There aren’t enough superlatives to describe them.

And they got to work.  They instantly started sharing the contest and our link on their Facebook pages and Twitter feeds.

My friend Patty’s husband Bil suggested we create a Facebook event to remind people to vote.  He told me to make it public so everyone could see it in their newsfeeds and anyone could invite people to it.

My friend Lexi blogged about it.  Twice. So did my friend Kristin.

Writing things like “And parents of ALL these children need and deserve a space that provides all of that for their families, and arguably more important, the community that will inherently come with it.” (from Kristin) and ” Even if it’s not set up in your neck of the country, it could be a model of a gym that could one day be set up near you. If this one is successful, more people will see how incredibly necessary they are.” (from Lexi)

And my friend Jess, who has been there with the gym from Day One, wrote about it too.  And tweeted: PLEASE VOTE for @SenseAbilityGym then RT. I’M BEGGING. #fedexgrantcontest http://bit.ly/XqmY3x @trydefyinggrav @diaryofamom #autism

In her post, Jess wrote: “Please vote for them to win the grant. It’s one click, once a day, through Nov 24th. Don’t worry; I’ll remind you. But please start right now. One click to create community. That’s all ya gotta do.”

So…

What happens when over 2400 people are invited to a Facebook event, and over 400 people actively voting on Facebook, and hundreds of people write Facebook posts daily begging friends to vote (under threat of postings of cat pictures all over their timelines)?

What happens when there are many many tweet and retweets,  and more postings in Facebook groups and on blog pages asking people to vote for us?

What happens when people who don’t even know us invite their Facebook friends to vote for us because they have a child with special needs and believe in our idea?

What happens when my son’s first preschool teacher writes to all of her friends: “today is the LAST day to vote for this awesome small business started by a good friend of mine! Her son was one of my very first students and holds a special place in my heart… Just click on the link and vote…thanks!!!!!! :)”

What happens when my husband is voting for something through Facebook for the First. Time. Ever?

What happens when you add one good idea plus hundreds of incredible friends with amazing social media presence plus a special needs community that comes together to support their own?

It equals over 3300 votes for our little nonprofit gym in only ten days.

And then this amazing thing happened…this I-can’t-even-put-my-finger-on-it thing…

This…whole community came together.

Cheering us on.  Joining us as we watched our numbers rise from 500 votes to 1000 votes to 2000 votes to the “holy crap we crossed 3000″ vote tally.

People posting their vote number on our Facebook event page with pride and excitement.

This unbelievably dedicated and supportive community grew up around this voting contest.

And put us in a position to be in the Top 10 of all the businesses entered.

Part of the mission of our business is Community. SenseAbility Gym wants its members to feel welcome, and part of the special needs community.

You’ve done that for us 3300 times over now.

This grant would be a game changer for us.

It would be a game changer for the families in our community.

We want the families around us to feel as supported and loved as we have felt over these past 10 days.

At 11:59pm Eastern time, voting closes.  The contest press release states: “In December, FedEx will review the entries and select and announce the top 100 finalists based on their contest profile and the number of votes they receive from Facebook users. The top six small businesses – including the grand prize winner – will be announced in January.”

Thank you for believing in us and our idea.

Thank you for believing in our children and their potential.

Thank you for being our friends.

Stay tuned.

If you read this before 11:59pm on Nov 24th and want to vote:  CLICK HERE!

What would you think if I sang out of tune
Would you stand up and walk out on me?
Lend me your ears and I’ll sing you a song
And I’ll try not to sing out of key
Oh I get by with a little help from my friends
Mm I get high with a little help from my friends
Mm going to try with a little help from my friends” – With A little Help From My Friends by The Beatles

The woods are lovely, dark and deep.
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep. – Stopping By Woods on a Snowy Evening by Robert Frost

 

A love letter.

Before you, I was lost.

Before you, I didn’t know who to turn to in my time of need.

Before you, I couldn’t find the words to share my pain.

Before you, I thought I was alone.

Before you, the judging looks rattled inside me and left me in tears.

Before you, I stared at pages of paperwork and walked away.

Before you, I was overwhelemed.

Before you, I stayed quiet in the corner.

Before you, I didn’t know me.

**********

Because of you, I found my path.

Because of you, I know that support is just a phone call, text, Facebook and twitter message away.

Because of you, I have a voice.

Because of you, I walk miles with a village.

Because of you, I can minimize the mitigating language.

Because of you, I ignore the judging looks and respond instead with a knowing smile.

Because of you, I can spell out the swear words and know that it feels so much better.

Because of you, I have learned how to be proactive and not reactive.

Because of you, I can sit at a meeting and say “It’s not my child who failed here.  It’s all of us around this table that failed him.”

Because of you, I see the path ahead and know it gets better.

Because of you, I can turn to those just starting this journey and tell them that too.

Because of you, I can laugh through the tears.

Because of you, I found me.

To my friends and family, I thank you.

There’s a new wind blowing like I’ve never known.
I’m breathing deeper than I’ve ever done.
And it sure feels good to finally feel the way I do.
I wanna love somebody, love somebody like you.” – Someone Like You by Keith Urban

If you happen to be on Twitter, there’s a great hashtag running on there right now #YouMightBeAnAutismParentIf.  It’s community and compassion all wrapped into 140 characters.  The tag has been running for over a week with some incredible comments.  A few of mine were:

#YouMightBeAnAutismParentIf you feel like you’ve been fighting for your child forever, and then you realize he’s only five #yearstogo
#YouMightBeAnAutismParentIf you wanted to write your own #Parenting book because the ones you have are useless in your world.
#YouMightBeAnAutismParentIf you wish every #Parenting mag had a #SpecialNeeds section each month so it felt more relevant to your life.
#YouMightBeAnAutismParentIf you look to friends w/older kids to tell you “it gets better” then turn to those w/younger kids to say the same.
and
#YouMightBeAnAutismParentIf you do everything in your power to protect and advocate for your child, and wonder why others don’t do the same.
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