Ice Cream Truck Whose CEO Is a Teen With Down Syndrome Teaches the Value of Diversity

A mother from Alabama started a mobile ice cream truck so that she could create a job opportunity for her son with Down syndrome. Now, this one-of-a-kind business is “changing the world one ice cream at a time.” (Courtesy of Michelle Norwood) Michelle Norwood, a special education teacher, had dreamed of starting an ice cream truck. However, only in 2017 while visiting her sister in Memphis did she patronize her first ice cream truck. But this time, she wanted to open one that could employ her son, Hunter Norwood, and those with other disabilities, according to AL.com. In small rural communities like Dawson, where Michelle’s family lives, it is hard for people like Hunter to find job opportunities, according to Michelle. Thus, the mom was worried that her son “would never experience things that bring gratification, such as a paycheck and a job title.” (Courtesy of Michelle Norwood) After one year of research, in August 2018, the ice cream truck “A Little Something Extra” was launched. The special name refers to an extra chromosome that causes Down syndrome. According to Michelle, it is “the first ice cream truck of its kind in America.” (Courtesy of Michelle Norwood) Hunter, 19, is the CEO of the noteworthy truck, which operates from March through October serving nursing homes, golf tournaments, schools, birthday parties, and other special events. The truck, which trains and employs others with intellectual and physical abilities, first teaches its employees social, life, and employment skills that are then followed by a certification program to become “ice cream experts,” notes their website. The specially crafted truck carries prepackaged Blue Bunny Ice Cream. However, apart from selling its delicious treats, the beautiful truck features images of young adults who have “various exceptionalities” for its artwork, and Hunter and his siblings, Hope, 22, and a younger brother, Brodie, 14, on the back. (Courtesy of Michelle Norwood) “The whole goal is to give them an opportunity to socialize, be seen and valued,” Michelle told AL.com in mentioning the purpose of the ice cream truck. “I want the ice cream truck to be a tool for advocacy and awareness.” Since the inception of A Little Something Extra, over a dozen youngsters have been trained to sell ice creams on the truck. “I had high expectations, but each worker has come in and blown me away with their ability,” Michelle says. “It really has been amazing.” Needless to say, a lot of people who visit the truck are more than happy to be served by their special ice cream experts. “You might get a brain freeze, but your heart melts. It has restored my faith in humanity,” Michelle added. (Courtesy of Michelle Norwood) For Michelle, the ice cream truck has become an innovative medium to provide awareness and teach the value of diversity and acceptance. “I can remember when Hunter was born, no one wanted to talk about what he could do. They wanted to say all of these things that might hold him back. No one wanted to say, hey, he could be a CEO one day. Well, guess what? He is,” Michelle told The Sand Mountain Reporter. (Courtesy of Michelle Norwood) Explaining Hunter’s childhood days, Michelle said that her son was a bit delayed in growing up. While other kids his age were already playing T-ball or going to Vacation Bible School, Hunter was still learning to take his first steps or even potty train. However, A Little Something Extra has given the youngster, who graduated from Geraldine High School, a spot to shine. “He takes pride in telling people that he’s the CEO and this gives him the perfect opportunity to spend with his friends as well,” Michelle said. As for what the future holds, Michelle explains that if things go according to the plan, A Little Something Extra will be selling ice creams and spreading joy to people at Auburn University, reports AL.com (Courtesy of Michelle Norwood) (Courtesy of Michelle Norwood) As for Hunter, who is currently in his Year 13 program at his high school, he wishes to attend Auburn someday. We would love to hear your stories! You can share them with us at emg.inspired@epochtimes.nyc

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Talented 11-Year-Old Girl Buys and Renovates a 1988 Camper Into a Gorgeous Clubhouse

A crafty 11-year-old girl has used her creativity and vision to its best by buying and renovating a camper into a chic gorgeous clubhouse. Now her stunning project is inspiring people to do the same. 11-year-old Lauren Nelson. (Courtesy of MorningSunPhotography) Lauren Nelson, from Attica, New York, spent two months of her summer revamping a 1988 20-foot Sunline Sunray Camper that she purchased with her own money. “I love this, I love renovating. I was very motivated with this camper, I really wanted a place where I could hang out . . . like my own house,” Lauren said referring to her project to WKBW. Inside the renovated camper. (Courtesy of Aimee Nelson) It all began when Lauren, who has an interest in American Girl dolls and interior design, came across a Volkswagen Surf Bus that was for American Girl Joss. Enthused to buy one for herself, the young girl approached her father, Paul. “She showed us a $650 little VW bus that they sell, my husband was like ‘that’s ridiculous, you could buy your own camper for that price,’” Lauren’s mom, Aimee, recalled. Piqued by her father’s idea, a determined Lauren began looking for campers almost everywhere she went. When a neighbor got a tiny pop-up camper for just $500, that fueled Lauren’s desire to look for more. Luckily, one day a house down the street in her neighborhood was sold to a new house owner. Included in the items of sale was a 1988 20-foot Sunline Sunray Camper. Lauren then immediately approached the new owner. Although initially the man priced the camper for $500, Lauren negotiated and brought down the price to $400, as that was all she had after saving and earning money by selling eggs from her chicken, according to The Daily News. A 1988 20-foot Sunline Sunray Camper. (Courtesy of Aimee Nelson) “She squealed the whole way home, she was so excited,” Aimee said. Soliciting the help of a neighbor, the camper was hooked to a tractor and brought outside Lauren’s house. The camper required a deep and thorough cleaning, and it wasn’t a really easy process as Lauren even spotted a family of mice. However, unperturbed, Lauren continued to work on her beachy boho-themed camper. Before the renovation. (Courtesy of Aimee Nelson) (Courtesy of Aimee Nelson) (Courtesy of Aimee Nelson) The talented girl garnered inspiration from Pinterest for an ideal name for her clubhouse and called it Camp Hygge. “It means very comfortable and safe. It has its own kitchen and bathroom,” Lauren told WKBW. She then looked for decor ideas on Facebook and garnered inspiration from a page called DIY Boho Décor, and her family came out in full force to help bring out her creativity. “I can pick out colors really fast,” Lauren told The Daily News. “We went to Home Depot and I picked out turquoise, white, and teal paint. We started in the kitchen and painted the cabinets turquoise and the walls white. Then we moved to the bedroom.” Aimee said that due to the pandemic, Lauren couldn’t go to the 4-H camp in the summer; thus, the supportive parents decided to use that money to buy her the supplies she needed for her tiny house. Lauren paints the camper. (Courtesy of Aimee Nelson) Additionally, for the decor, a thrifty Lauren even looked through items from her parents’ house and some garage sales. In order to complete the look of the house, a friend even sent Lauren a few boho pillows and a macramé shelf to reflect the unique theme. “I love to do design. I think this has been an amazing experience and I’ve learned a lot,” Lauren told the Daily News, alluding to the project. “I’ve learned to be frugal, save money, and improved my public speaking skills.” After the renovation. (Courtesy of Aimee Nelson) Since completing her impressive project, the confident 11-year-old has been featured in various interviews, including one with Josh and Zack from “Tiny House Nation.” The duo has been a major inspiration for Lauren through her design process. (Courtesy of Aimee Nelson) (Courtesy of Aimee Nelson) Additionally, Lauren has even signed up with a modeling agency called Signed Management. “Things are going very well. I signed with a modeling agency after they saw my camper,” Lauren said. Since signing up with a modeling agency, Lauren has even launched her Instagram account called @tinylifedesign, where she chronicles her life and design projects. Apart from being in the spotlight, Aimee told The Epoch Times via a Facebook message that “Our favorite part though is all the messages we received from people who were inspired by Lauren and then went out and bought their own camper to renovate.” She further continued: “60- 70-year-old ladies who said they had always wanted to do something like this!” (Courtesy of MorningSunPhotography) Lauren further urges others: “If you’re looking to have some big plans in the future, you should go out and do it. Make it happen.” The talented 11-year-old with a keen eye for design plans to have a career in home renovation, forensic science, or possibly both. We would love to hear your stories! You can share them with us at emg.inspired@epochtimes.nyc

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Toddler Born With a Cleft Lip Adopts Puppy With the Same Condition From a Michigan Shelter

An adorable toddler from Michigan who was born with a cleft lip has found his companion in a rescue puppy at an animal shelter that also happens to have the same birth defect. (Courtesy of Jackson County Animal Shelter – Michigan) When 2-year-old Bentley Boyers’s father, Brandon, visited the Jackson County Animal Shelter to adopt two chickens for his farm in early September, he was drawn to a cute black-and-white puppy with a cleft lip, as it reminded him of his son. The excited father immediately contacted his wife, Ashley, 23, to show her the puppy. “He Facetimed me. He goes, ‘I think this one has a cleft lip’ and I said ‘get her’! We need her!” Ashley told WILX. Brandon, 27, who had never come across a puppy with such a condition before, immediately went to Animal Services Director Lydia Sattler to inquire about the adoption process. “I explained that they could take the puppy home two days later, after she had her final vet appointment,” Sattler told the Washington Post. (Courtesy of Jackson County Animal Shelter – Michigan) Sattler was glad to know that the Boyers family was interested in adopting this puppy, which had been transported from an area in Mississippi with an excess of animals alongside 24 other rescued dogs and was one of the last to be adopted. The shelter, which provides love and care to stray, abandoned, and owner-surrendered animals and then finally helps them find their forever homes and normally doesn’t come across puppies with a cleft lip, believes that the puppy will not have any problems in the future. “Her disability is really not holding her back, and as she grows, they’ll be able to see more if there’s any change that has to do with that. But, she’s really doing well,” Sattler told WLIX. Having found the perfect match for Bentley, his excited parents couldn’t wait to introduce him to his new puppy and thus visited the shelter with him the following day. Unsurprisingly, Bentley and the puppy had an instant connection. “They were head over heels for each other right away,” Ashley said. As Bentley took his new puppy in his arms and cradled her, everyone witnessing the heartwarming moment was left in tears. “The puppy immediately started soaking up all his love,” Sattler said. “It was genuine joy.” Bentley, who named the puppy Lacey, took her home on Sept. 4. The shelter then took to Facebook to share the story along with pictures of the adorable duo, writing: “It’s so hard to put into words how meaningful this adoption is to all of us so we are going to let the pictures speak for themselves.” “They instantly loved each other. We wish many years of joy as this special pair grow up together,” they further added. (Courtesy of Jackson County Animal Shelter – Michigan) Bentley’s life hasn’t always been smooth. According to Ashley, her strong little son was diagnosed with a cleft lip during a gender ultrasound. At just 5 months old, Bentley underwent surgery and has since undergone one more in his short course of life. Additionally, when he began eating, Ashley told WLIX: “We had to sit him up and feed him and hold his lip together in order for him to eat—so it was a process.” However, his parents think that after welcoming Lacey to their family, Bentley won’t feel like he is alone. “To see him have something in common with a puppy means a lot ’cause he can grow up and understand that he and his puppy both have something that they can share in common,” Ashley said. Luckily for Bentley, who still has to undergo some more medical procedures such as bone grafting as he grows older, he will not be alone now. (Courtesy of Jackson County Animal Shelter – Michigan) Needless to say, Bentley has been really excited to have Lacey by his side, and the two have already struck a great bond. “Bentley spends all day playing with her,” Ashley told the Washington Post. “They play outside with balls and find sticks and rocks. …” However, the parents know that beyond all the joy and fun, Bentley has found a true companion. “He won’t feel like he’s alone on this journey,” Brandon said. We would love to hear your stories! You can share them with us at emg.inspired@epochtimes.nyc

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