SUN PRAIRIE, Wis. - Jillian Brown waits anxiously in the gym of Northside Elementary School. She’s about to stand up in front of all of her classmates to introduce someone who actually understands how she feels every day.
Brown was born without an arm, something she gets questions about a lot.
“I just say, I was born without one hand. It just didn't keep growing like my other hand,” Brown said.
Luckily, her classmates have accepted her.
“I guess I kind of fit in because everyone is different in some way,” Brown said.
She proudly introduces her friend, Ryan Haack.
Haack is a published author, going around the country speaking to people of all ages about what makes him unique. Go to shake his hand, and you’ll probably realize what that special trait is.
Haack was born without most of his left arm. He considers that to be a blessing, since he learned how to do everything with one hand and didn’t have to reacclimate to life with a missing limb.
“Plenty of people have told me I should be upset or angry, and I just feel like I've just never had the time to do that. I didn't want to spend my energy being upset about something that A) I couldn't change, and B) that I didn't mind,” Haack said.
Haack was never really bullied when he was younger, and he’s thankful for the strong support system he had around him growing up.
Haack is also a published author. His book, “Different is Awesome”, is in its fourth printing. It’s an autobiographical children’s book that shares the story of his younger brother bringing him to show-and-tell.
“It's been really cool to see it connect with so many people because it is a message that's general enough that everyone needs to hear it,” Haack said.
Haack travels around the country to talk to students and businesses. Each presentation covers the same principles: We should all be proud of what makes us different.
“It's really not an anti-bullying message,” Haack said, “but it's more about accepting yourself for who you are and when you do that, you're able to accept other people for the way they are.”
#BeYou ambassador @LivingOneHanded has a pretty simple message: different is AWESOME. He showed off his skills at Northside Elementary students in Sun Prairie. See them for yourself on @WISCTV_News3 at 5! #news3now #differentisawesome pic.twitter.com/uLe8FFxalL— Dannika Lewis (@DannikaLewis) June 12, 2019
No matter how old or young his audience is, Haack opens the floor for questions. He says the kids’ inquiries are particularly interesting.
“They're dealing with something they've never encountered before,” Haack said. “Something as simple as that to ‘do you ever wish that you had another hand?’ or ‘do you get bullied?’ or ‘have you ever been sad because of your hand?’ Those questions really get to the core of what I'm trying to teach them.”
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