The Feel-Good Family: Part One
Photo Credit: Heather Raasveld
Our Kids Quest and Cyber Quest teams first met Heather through an organization called Sunshine Nevada. In collaboration with that organization, our Sunset Station facilities hosted a special event in January of this year called “Hudson’s Inclusive Birthday Party” Heather is Hudson’s mom and the story behind the event is not only remarkable but perhaps relatable for anyone who has or knows a child with some type of challenge.
Let’s begin with Hudson.
Hudson’s preschool experience was unusual–a mainstream classroom where children of varying capabilities and levels of development were combined. This learning environment created a unique set of circumstances to navigate as well, and I’m getting to that.
Hudson is an inquisitive and articulate 8-year-old who is undoubtedly wise beyond his years. His kind nature was readily apparent when one day, as a preschooler, he noticed that only a select group (the children with normal development) were invited to a fellow classmate’s birthday party. Ever curious, Hudson asked his mother why all the children weren’t asked to attend the party. That’s a tough question for a mom to answer. Knowing why, and yet trying to communicate the reason gently was a challenge. Heather gave Hudson an innocuous answer but found it hard to push her hurt and anger aside as they made their way home. After a conversation with her husband, Bob, Heather was asked, “Well, how can you change it, what can you do about it?”
Knowing she couldn’t do it alone, she sat down with her son and asked him what he would like to do. His answer was as pure and altruistic as his little soul “Mama when I have my birthday party, I want to invite all the kids.”
And this is how Hudson’s Inclusive Birthday Party came to be.
Upon discussing the idea with one of Hudson’s teachers, Heather learned that statistically, special needs children rarely, if ever, attend parties and social events–in spite of having the same need for belonging as other kids. Because of this, Heather worked hard to extend the party invitation to as many special needs youngsters as possible. Seemingly overnight, an event that would normally be small for the Raasveld family, grew in number to 80. Eighty children who could play anxiety-free, without fear of bullying or judgment. And something else wonderful happened that day, a bonding took place between the parents who attended the event. The party served as a catalyst for a network of support, respite care, and a sense of community—all built on the foundation of a preschooler’s wish.
Hudson has since become an ambassador for inclusive initiatives in his hometown of Las Vegas, Nevada. Hudson still maintains a very high level of empathy and understanding—something he takes with him wherever he goes and routinely asks business owners and people of influence what they do to welcome or accommodate those with special needs.
In March of this year, Hudson was recognized by America’s First Credit Union as a young person making a difference in his community. Besides being honored for his efforts, Hudson received $500 to apply toward his next inclusive event once it’s safe to gather again. In addition, he made his first appearance on KTNV, the ABC affiliate in Las Vegas to tell his story, pretty exciting stuff for a kid!
Yes, my hero is six months shy of his 9th birthday. He’s the face of our future–and perhaps the creator of a kinder and more accepting world. But, do you want to know something beyond amazing? Hudson is only one member of a family that will leave you smiling, and no doubt inspired. Check back in with me in our next newsletter to learn more about the Raasvelds.