Posted in Daily Dose of Awesome

Overcoming the doubters

It’s hard to keep reaching toward your dream when you’re faced with rejection at every turn. Every day, it seems, I’m getting rejection letters from jobs I’ve applied to… jobs I know I’m qualified for… jobs I know I would do good at. But it doesn’t matter what I know. The rejection letters keep coming, and I feel like giving up.

But if you look at the lives of so many famous people — from Albert Einstein to J.K. Rowling — you’ll see that they, too, faced disappointment and rejection over and over again. But from being the most recognized faces in cinema, sports, and literature, they’ve proven one big point: Don’t let a bunch of “Nos” get in the way of you pushing for what you believe in.

I’m holding on to that hope today, hoping that things will turn out Awesome.

Posted in Daily Dose of Awesome

Celebrating the strength during struggle

Photo art and two determined, loving moms are changing the views of pediatric cancer. After Liz Salguero and Dawn Ladenheim met in a support group for moms and siblings of children with cancer, Circle of Care was born. Circle of Care, which is a Wilton, Conn., nonprofit organization, provides emotional and financial assistance to families who have children who have been diagnosed with cancer.

As with many of their special projects, Life Within The Journey is a revealing photo art exhibit that is changing the lives of cancer patients and their families. This breathtaking photo exhibit, developed by Jeff Salguero, features 22 pediatric cancer patients and aims to change the view of childhood cancer. The goal of the traveling exhibit is to invite everyone to see the other side of a cancer diagnosis: the bravery, the spirit, the hope and to celebrate families who have endured so much. The photographer, Jeanna Shepard, does a beautiful job highlighting each child’s personality and bringing inspiration to all who see it. Accompanying text, written by Christine Baer, tells the powerful story of each child’s journey. These heroic children are patients of the Smilow Cancer Center at Yale-New Haven Children’s Hospital.

Life Within The Journey has been on exhibit in eight towns throughout Connecticut including the State Capital, which was sponsored by State Senator Ted Kennedy Jr., himself a pediatric cancer survivor who said, “Circle of Care’s powerful exhibit, ‘Life Within the Journey,’ reveals the other side of pediatric cancer; the side where life – in all its beautiful and complex detail – marches on.”


Posted in Daily Dose of Awesome

Helping Peru

People of Peru are getting new opportunities thanks to one Awesome high school student. Ziggy Hallgarten, a 17-year-old junior at Staples High School is Westport, Conn., takes his entrepreneur spirit and helps others in return.

Ziggy loves to wear winter hats; in fact, he wears them year round. After ordering several different brands online, he realized nothing really fit his style. Ziggy traveled to Peru twice with his mother for business and decided to see if he could hire locals in Peru to design his dream hats. After some design and thread tweaking, the hat-making is in full swing. He pays the locals $10 dollars to make the hats, helping the impoverished community, and then also donates 10 percent of his profits to the nonprofit group Community Plates. His love for hats and helping others is improving lives across the world!


Posted in Daily Dose of Awesome

Comfort at funerals

Lulu is a very special kind of therapy dog. Funerals are an extremely hard time for family and friends of lost loved ones. The Ballard-Durand Funeral & Cremation Services is a caring and compassionate funeral home that guides families to a meaningful ceremony to honor the life and memory of a loved one. The owner, Matthew Fiorillo, realized the power his dog Lulu could have in helping people in their time of need.

This Goldendoodle joined the Westchester County funeral homes and has been trained for duty as their very own certified Therapy Dog. Affectionately called the firm’s “Comfort Companion,” Lulu follows the lead of service dogs often used in health care settings, such as hospitals, nursing homes and universities. She provides families with unconditional love and support, as well as a subtle distraction from their grief.

Posted in Daily Dose of Awesome

Human Touch


A program at a Pittsburgh hospital is showing how impactful the human touch can be.

The University of Pittsburgh Medical Center’s Magee-Women’s Hospital is home to a cuddling program designed for volunteers to snuggle and comfort babies who have been exposed to opioids during their mothers’ pregnancies and who show withdrawal symptoms.

Maribeth McLaughlin, chief nursing officer and vice president of Patient Care Services at the hospital, told The Huffington Post the volunteers provide a way to calm and console the babies, who can be a part of the program from one week or up to eight weeks.

“It’s great for our babies because it provides them with care and comfort, and it‘s an assistance to families who may not be able to be there the whole time,” she said.

Since starting 10 years ago, the program has grown from five or six volunteers to 25, partly because of growing rates of neonatal abstinence syndrome, according to McLaughlin. Before being able to cuddle the babies, program volunteers must submit an application and references, be interviewed, undergo clearances and adhere to health standards including taking a tuberculosis test and getting a flu shot during flu season.

In a study published in 2016, Notre Dame psychology researcher Darcia Narvaez stressed the benefits of cuddling after finding that providing “affection, play and support” to kids throughout childhood contributes to their well-being as adults. Volunteer cuddler Nancy Stebler, who has been a part of the program for almost four years, has seen more immediate effects.

“I think that the human touch and the cuddling and swaddling really helps to give them comfort and calm them down,” she said.

Though they are there to provide comfort to the babies, the volunteers also benefit from the program, according to Stebler. She said her work at the hospital has been “a huge eye-opener” when it comes to learning about neonatal abstinence syndrome. Most importantly though, she described her time comforting the babies as a “gratifying” and “humbling experience.”

“It just makes us feel so rewarded that we can bring such peace and calming as they are trying to go through such a difficult time,” she said.

Posted in Daily Dose of Awesome


Around 5 million Americans suffer from Alzheimer’s disease, which slowly attacks cognition, robbing patients of a lifetime of memories.

YouTube channel WatchCut Video recently sat down with several older adults, ages 49 to 75, who have been diagnosed with the disease, to ask them to share some of their most important memories.

From their earliest remembrances of being wonderstruck children, to first kisses, to their most recent recollections, they reveal what they can.

While they sometimes struggle to recall certain things, it’s the most powerful memories that seem to stick. And in a most emotional revelation, they share what they hope they will never forget. For one woman it’s her children; for one man it’s his marriage.

Just proves that while the debilitating disease can rob patients of their memories, it hopefully can never erase true love.

Posted in Daily Dose of Awesome, Uncategorized

A do-over graduation


Call it a graduation recreation.

A high school held a second ceremony for a student who missed graduation due to a coma.

Scott Dunn was supposed to graduate from East Juniata High School in McAlisterville, Pennsylvania, on May 25. But on May 22, on his way to a track meet, Dunn got into a car accident that put him into a coma, causing him to miss one of the biggest days of his young life.

“I remember waking up in the hospital and asking my mom what day it was. She told me it was the 28th,” Dunn told WHTM. “First thing I said, I looked at her and said, ‘I missed my graduation’.”

When East Juniata’s principal, Benjamin Fausey, heard that Dunn had woken from his coma, he told Dunn and his mom, Karen, the school “wanted to do something special for him.”

That special thing? Graduation 2.0.

On June 14, three weeks after the other students officially graduated, 50 seniors from Dunn’s graduating class of 80, showed up in caps and gowns for ceremonial do-over for one.

“It’s like a reunion,” one teacher told The Lewistown Sentinel as she smiled through tears.

Fausey told ABC News that Dunn got to lead his classmates in a procession to “Pomp and Circumstance,” and as Dunn walked across the stage to get his diploma, graduates erupted into applause.

“At the first ceremony I spoke to you about perseverance,” Fausey said during Dunn’s ceremony according to The Lewistown Sentinel. “It’s because of his perseverance that Scotty is with us here today.”