This Prom Night Puts Kids With Special Needs in the Spotlight

Many children will encounter bullying at some point in their lives. But children with special needs are especially at risk, and this bullying can wreak long-term psychological damage: According to a study by the American Academy of Pediatrics, being left out, ignored or bullied by peers is one of the main reasons children with special needs report symptoms of anxiety and depression.
In an effort to change this, the Tim Tebow Foundation hosts Night to Shine, an annual prom night experience for children with special needs. The nonprofit is led by the former star athlete and 200,000 volunteers worldwide, who are paired with guests as “buddies” for the evening.
Guests can dress up and have their makeup and hair done, as they might do for a real high-school prom, but instead of the prom having just one king and queen, each attendee leaves the event with a crown.
The event is one of the organization’s highlights of the year. Watch the above video to learn more about Night to Shine and the Tim Tebow Foundation.

These Fathers Are Making the World a Better Place

A father or father figure can be one of the most important influences on a child’s life. At NationSwell we elevate stories of solutions that are moving the country forward, and these dads are doing just that — for both their own children and their communities.
When He Couldn’t Find a School for His Daughter, This Father Established His OwnAn incident with her baby nurse left newborn Sarah Jane with permanent brain damage, unable to walk or talk. It was then that her father knew he needed to be her voice in the world.
The Hero of Kansas CityRestaurant owner Anton Kotar sees his staff as family. The father of three hires former felons to work in his kitchen and trains them in everything from culinary arts to parenting. “They need a chance,” he says.
Meet the Gutsy Dad That Started a Car Wash to Help His Son Find PurposeIn the autism community, reaching the age of 22 is commonly referred to as “falling off the cliff.” Government support cuts off and many people with autism face limited employment options and a lack of activities to keep them engaged. Entrepreneur John D’Eri wasn’t going to let that happen to his son, Andrew.
How Do Young Men Become Better Fathers? They Attend This Boot CampIn New York City, more than half a million children are being raised by single parents — increasingly, single dads. This innovative city program trains low-income fathers to become better parents. “We want to stop this cycle that’s been going on in their families, because they’re training the future leaders of our city,” says program coordinator Raheem Brooks.
My Final Act of ServiceAs Marine veteran Anthony Egan struggled with terminal cancer, he spoke with NationSwell about what makes life worth living and the final lessons he wanted to instill in his son before he passed.

Watch This Wheel of Fortune Contestant Score a Smashing Success

It takes real guts to make your dreams come true — especially when you haven’t had it easy in life.
Trent Girone, 21, has survived multiple brain and heart surgeries and has both Tourette and Asperger syndromes.
But none of that could keep him from living out a very public life-long dream: competing on the long-running game show “Wheel of Fortune.”
According to his contestant profile, he’s loved the show since he was 2. The show gave him the green light last May. As the Huffington Post notes, after 6,000 episodes, Girone is the first special needs competitor on the show.
Watch the clip below and you’ll see the infectiously bubbly Girone easily solve the puzzles “a smashing success” and “cream cheese coffee cake.” He even charmed host Pat Sajak with his obscure “Wheel of Fortune” knowledge.
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In the end, Girone didn’t win the show’s top prize, but he walked away with a cool $2,150. As one commenter wrote on the Huffington Post, “As the Dad of a profoundly handicapped child, I can’t begin to explain the joy I have had from watching this clip. Thank you to the ‘Wheel of Fortune’ for your insight into mainstreaming our handicapped population.”
Another commenter remarked, “Congratulations, Trent, on not only achieving your dream of being a contestant, but opening the door to everybody else who shares that dream with you.”
The gracious young man thanked the contestants, staff and Sajak for their assistance and making sure he was “safe and comfortable.”
Girone called the experience “as awesome and amazing as it could be.” And he shared some pearls of wisdom: “My best advice to future contestants is to relax and have a good time. It is a lot of fun, whether you win big or not. That is my number one guarantee.”