Value in Being Different


Madelyn was born 10 weeks early and without her left arm. At a young age, she had a lot to overcome, but she never let her disability slow her down. Instead, Madelyn used her disability as a platform to educate others on the value of being different.

As a patient at Shriners Hospitals for Children® – St. Louis, Madelyn had a built-in support system of physicians, therapists, nurses, staff and fellow patients who became like family to her. This group of people instilled courage and confidence in Madelyn and helped her to realize anything was possible, even with one arm. Madelyn learned to play sports, became an avid swimmer and started outreach programs to help others who are missing limbs. She posted videos to help others with disabilities master daily tasks, like tying shoes, making a ponytail and even jumping rope.

When Madelyn started school, she realized not everyone was lucky enough to have so much support. Her classmates didn’t know how to react to someone who did things differently. That is when she knew she had an opportunity to educate people and make a positive difference.

Every year for the last five years, Madelyn has taken time to talk with students of all grade levels at schools in the St. Louis area during their Ability Awareness Week. Her goal is to start the conversation about bullying at a young age, so no one grows up thinking bullying is OK. She teaches kids that being different is a gift, not something that someone should be picked on for. She initiates a discussion about how people are all unique and special. Some of our differences are obvious and some are not, but everyone has something that makes them different, so we should try to always be accepting of one another.

Madelyn has also made presentations at three schools where Shriners Hospitals patients were being bullied. She helped their classmates see how amazing they were too!

Madelyn’s confidence in herself has allowed her to become an effective advocate against bullying in her community. She is inspiring others to respect differences, take action and #cutthebull.