Top 10 Goose’s Quill Posts of 2014

I always love seeing what posts spoke to my readers each year. It is no surprise to me that 2 of the posts were about Gavin Leong, a little boy who has changed the world without ever uttering a word. I hope you enjoy all the posts here, and check out ones you might have missed.

10.  Old Fashioned: Writing With Pen and Paper

9.   What’s Your Observational Intelligence Quotient?

8.   When a Bridge Phobia Isn’t a Bridge Phobia

7.   Why Disney’s Captain Hook is a Great Villain—and how yours can be, too

6.   Gavin’s Playground Project

5.   The World Lost a Superhero: Farewell, Gavin

4.  Kids’ Questions #1: Does Novel Writing Ever Get Boring?

3.   The Writing Process Blog Tour

2.   The Literary Toolbox: Writing Simultaneous Action

And the #1 post of 2014 was:

1.  CreateSpace vs. Ingram Spark

Thanks for reading, everyone! Happy New Year—I hope 2015 brings you peace and joy.

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Gavin’s Playground Project

I believe that even a kid can change the world. People think I am extremely naïve when I say this, especially because I am in most other ways a “show me” person who is a touch cynical. But I believe that one person can change the world, even if that person is a child. I believe this because I have seen it. The child who showed me this truth?

Gavin David Leong.

Gavin the Superhero

Gavin was a miracle every day of his life, but the true extent of his miraculous gifts only showed itself after his death at age five. The short version of the story is that he had a febrile seizure and died. On his mother’s birthday. In the midst of her grief, Gavin’s mother, Kate Leong, asked people to honor her son by doing acts of kindness.

And the community responded in an incredible way.

Later, Kate decided to further honor her son by founding Gavin’s Trust Project, to fund special needs preschools and the Chester County Intermediate Unit so they could help the kids in their care reach their full potential.

The Trust Project raised over $25,000 (and continues today).

But Gavin’s inspiration and influence didn’t stop there. This weekend I attended a fundraiser for an all-abilities playground at A.I. DuPont Hospital in Delaware. Why an all-abilities playground?

Because Kate still speaks for Gavin, and for those like him. When Gavin and his brother Brian were small, they were at DuPont for Gavin, and they stopped at the playground on the way out. Brian could play there—but there was not a single piece of equipment Gavin could safely use. This oversight was puzzling because DuPont is a children’s hospital dedicated to caring for kids with all sorts of disabilities and illnesses—and in every other area they more than excel in this regard. But on that day, Kate noticed a lack, one which would surely cause more pain to children who already struggle every day to fit in, to just be kids.

Gavin & Kate

So a few months ago, Kate broached the subject to DuPont, and they agreed to build an all-abilities playground as they renovate and expand the hospital. But they needed funds to do it. So Kate turned to the community that had grown around Gavin during his life and death.

Kate put together a fantastic (and FUN!) fundraiser, including incredible silent auctions. The Gavin community came together from all over the world. Donations directly to hospital poured in from those who couldn’t come to the function. Ticket sales climbed to over 400 people. A social experiment in micro-donating racked up more money in minutes. The overall total raised by this gargantuan fundraising effort has topped $63,000 and is still climbing. To donate directly to this project, go here, choose a Donation Level OR put in the amount you would like to donate under Select A Gift Frequency, and choose “Abilities Playground” in the Donation Designation drop-down.

It has been a year since Gavin was inexplicably taken from us, but his legacy lives on. He has changed so many lives for the better. Kate continues to find ways to honor her son by helping others, and the Gavin community continues to be inspired by the spirit of this little boy who has changed the world without ever uttering a word.

A superhero sleeps here

Top 10 Goose’s Quill Posts of 2013

Top 10 Goose’s Quill Posts of 2013

It’s always interesting to see which posts struck chords with people over the year. Surprisingly, the most popular posts were evenly split between writing and life. Enjoy!

10. The Monkees Came To My Town

9. A Mile in My Daughter’s Ears

8. Connecting the Dots: Meeting My Grandfather

7. The Internal Saboteur

6. The End of an Era: When Writing Mentors Move On

5. A Writer’s Thick Skin: Do We Need One?

4. Old Fashioned: Writing With Pen and Paper

3. My Biggest Takeaway: 2013 Philadelphia Writers’ Conference

 The top 2 posts are no surprise. The tragedy of my friend Kate Leong’s unexpectedly losing her 5 1/2 son, and the miracle response that followed his death still breaks my heart–while moving me to tears of joy at the strength and kindness of the human spirit.

2. The Gavin Effect: A Tsunami of Kindness

1. The World Lost a Superhero: Farewell, Gavin

 Happy 2014, everyone!

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Gavin’s Trust Project: Building hope out of tragedy

Followers of my blog will no doubt remember last month’s sudden death of my friend’s 5-year-old son. Young Gavin had touched many people very deeply. He died on his mother’s birthday, and she asked that we do an act of kindness in his name—to which the Internet responded in breathtaking fashion. My friend Kate and her family also chose three charities to donate to in lieu of flowers, and again the response was enormous.

But the generosity of Kate Leong and her family did not end there.

You see, because Gavin was a special needs child, Kate learned a lot about advocacy. She saw the struggle to get things covered by medical insurance. She saw how much is NOT covered by medical insurance. She saw therapists who had to share equipment, which meant not every kid got the therapy equipment they needed every time. She saw schools making due with duct-taped communication devices because of underfunding for their programs. She saw so many people whose children did not have the advantages Gavin had simply because special needs ran head-on into financial need.

Once she saw, Kate could not unsee.

So this week, Kate unveiled Gavin’s Trust Project. She is raising money to donate to the Chester County Intermediate Unit (CCIU) for their Pre-School Multiple Disabilities programs—a group that did so much to help her son thrive and blossom, and yet are sorely underfunded. Kate knows that many families go without much-needed equipment at home because finances simply don’t allow it. CCIU can help with that—if they have the funds. Kate wants to help these other families and these wonderful therapists so that all the children they serve have the chance to reach their full potential.

Gavin’s Trust Project has already made its first tangible difference. With the astonishing amount of money left over from donations made to print Gavin’s memorial service programs, Gavin’s Trust Project has bought Gavin’s school classroom and school several pieces of equipment long on their wish list. More details of the project can be found here.

While Gavin may be gone, Gavin’s Trust Project builds a legacy in his name that will affect hundreds, perhaps even thousands, of children over time.

Please spread the word about this amazing project. That Gavin’s life was cut short is a tragedy; that his legacy will bring hope to so many is a miracle.

Gavin the Superhero

The Gavin Effect: A Tsunami of Kindness

As a writer, I routinely place characters into situations where they are caught up in events larger than they are. It is rare in anyone’s real life to feel something similar—but I am feeling that way right now.

My friend Kate Leong’s 5-year-old son Gavin died last week. He was pronounced dead on Kate’s 43rd birthday. But instead of screaming the heavens down with the unfairness of it all, Kate posted on her blog that for her birthday she would like anyone touched by Gavin’s life to do an act of kindness in his honor.

Boy, did people around the world respond.

Kate’s blog, Chasing Rainbows, has chronicled Gavin’s remarkable journey from babyhood. She has followers all around the world. Her request did not fall on deaf ears. Whether it was people like me who felt like Gavin was a part of our own family, or people who had found Kate’s blog for the first time and were moved by her generosity of spirit, acts of kindness rippled out from their epicenter—one small boy who never spoke a word.

I watched as the word spread through social media. I saw it hit other highly-popular blogs. I saw it make headlines on Huffington Post. I saw people sending Gavin’s story to the Ellen de Generes show. I read as people donated to charities, collected toys for children’s hospitals, made soup for local families in need, donated to hippotherapy or asked their local special needs teachers what they could do to help. The company who makes the popular communication software Speak For Yourself gave away 30 free apps in Gavin’s name. A jeweler named their new keepsake pendant “Kate’s Heart” in honor of the Leong family. A person kindly donated her talent to creating the program for Gavin’s funeral service, and so many people contributed money to help defray the cost of paying a printer that she ended up with well over $5,000 (anything not going to pay for the printing will be donated to the “in lieu of flowers” charities the Leong’s suggested). Everywhere I looked, people reached out to one another, to strangers—to help.

This tremendous wave of generosity, a tsunami of kindness, is something far more than any of us can comprehend at this moment. Certainly, the peak of the movement will fade as Gavin is laid to rest and people return to their normal lives, but this courageous little boy has reached out and changed us all permanently.

Some people will become organ donors who otherwise might not have. Some people who have begun helping organizations in his name will continue to do so out of their own newfound passion. Connections have been forged between people who might not otherwise have met. Any one of these things—EVERY one of these things—has the potential to change someone’s life.

We do not always know the results of the good that we do. Something that seems like nothing to us can have a deep impact on someone else. Even a small act of kindness on our part—an old iPad given to a school, a $5 donation to a cause—can be the thing that profoundly changes someone’s life. Any act of kindness might be the act that opens another person’s eyes, or becomes the helping hand a person needs to turn their life in a positive direction, or gives a child the freedom to reach their full potential. Any act of good we do can be the key to changing a life, and that life we change could be the key to changing the world.

Even after the initial tsunami of kindness fades, the effects we set in motion will continue. They will cascade and pass on from person to person. We may never fully grasp the impact Kate’s request and our response has upon this world.

But I know we made a difference and will continue to do so.

So to anyone out there who doubts that one person can change the world, I hold up the example of Gavin Leong.

One person CAN change the world—even if he’s only 5 1/2 years old.

A superhero sleeps here

The World Lost A Superhero: Farewell, Gavin

On April 14, 2013, the world lost a superhero: Gavin Leong, age 5 ½.

Gavin & Kate

Gavin had the biggest heart I ever saw, so it is the cruelest of ironies that his heart was what failed him in the end.

Gavin was special needs, but most of us would describe him with just the first word: special.

I never met Gavin in person, which shocked me when I realized it, because I felt like I had. His mother Kate has blogged about his amazing journey from the time he was born, and took us with him on her blog Chasing Rainbows. Kate and her family allowed us unprecedented access to their lives, sharing both their joy and heartbreak. But Gavin’s house wasn’t the house of a special needs child…it was a house of miracles.

Gavin’s parents were told when he was a newborn that his issues were so severe that they should just “keep him happy.”

But his parents saw more potential in their son than the doctors did.

After a long stay in the NICU after birth, Gavin was home barely a few weeks and he was back in the hospital for a two month stay, battling two illnesses that should have killed him.

Kate and Ed were told Gavin had permanent hearing loss as an infant—until the day the audiologist told them his hearing was normal and he no longer needed his hearing aids.

They were told Gavin would never eat without a feeding tube. He graduated to pureed foods and some solids.

They were told Gavin would never sit up. He started walking unassisted at Christmas 2012.

They were told Gavin would never communicate. Two days before his final illness, he independently and repeatedly sought out and pressed a button asking for water.

Gavin’s body may have been frail, but his spirit was not.

Gavin did everything in his own time in his own way. He faced his challenges with patience and courage, and even when crying in frustration he continued to fight. He never gave up, and his parents never stopped believing in him and his strength.

We were so privileged to experience it with him. At his preschool, Gavin had the goal of walking the equivalent of a 5K over the course of the school year. When he made his final lap, the entire preschool lined the halls to cheer for him. Gavin probably never knew that he had an entire Internet cheering section as well.

When Gavin needed the final miracle that never came, so many, many people prayed for him, rooted for him, and sent him positive thoughts. Many people displayed the Super-Gavin logo.*

Super Gavin Logo

Sometimes it seemed as if half my newsfeed had changed their profile pictures to Super Gavin. People who had never met him, never read Kate’s blogs, shared it on their walls and sent their support. This little boy who couldn’t talk touched the world, and taught us so much.

He taught his mother the power of hope and faith.

He taught his father the power of unconditional love.

He taught his little brother the power of compassion.

He taught me to celebrate the everyday triumphs of my daughter—to rejoice in her running around even when she exhausts me; to find joy in her constant talking and singing even when all I want is a moment of quiet; to be grateful for her health and her love even in the whirlwind of life.

The answer to why Gavin was taken from us so early will never be fully understood. But the answer to why he was placed on this earth in the first place is clear:

Gavin was given to us to teach us the power of persistence, of hope, and of love.

And the greatest of these is love.

Farewell, Gavin. You are now free of the body that failed you so often in this world. You can talk and run and play with your grandparents, your sister, your twin, and your other siblings who never made it to this world.

The world lost a superhero today—and Heaven gained an angel.

Gavin's last missionGavin the Superhero

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