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  • I met Sam at a Children's Rehabilitation Center in Washington, DC in mid February.

    It was a chaotic trip - six of us, including my two toddlers - piled into my Honda Pilot and headed from Trenton, NJ to DC around 6pm. The plan was to get into DC by 9pm, settle into our hotel rooms and then meet briefly to discuss filming Sam the next day. First, a "quick" stop at a rest area turned into a sit down dinner, then - traffic. A closed bridge. Rain. We arrived close to 11pm. Morgan, Theresa and I met in my hotel room while Melissa tried to get the kids back to sleep. It wasn't until close to 1am that we finally called it a night.

    The next morning we awoke to more rain, clouds - an overall dreary day. It always seems so much harder to wake up hopeful for inspiration on cloudy days. That's how we all felt - sluggish, tired, foggy. But we hadn't met Sam yet.

    After breakfast and a quick swim in the hotel's indoor pool (insisted on by the kids), we headed to the children's rehabilitation center in DC. We were met by close to a dozen people - lawyers, caseworkers, advocates - all there as part of Sam's team. Sam was not yet in the room as we discussed filming. We were told not to ask about his father, but otherwise told that Sam was pretty open. "He's really funny." "He's such a great kid." "He loves sports!" Descriptions you'd hear about a typical kid. But Sam, we were about to find out, was no typical kid.

    Sam wheeled himself in about fifteen minutes about our crew's arrival. He wore a graphic T-shirt, glasses and a huge smile. He extended his hand, somewhat still turned inward, for us to shake.

    "Shake it." One of the men told us. "It's a really big deal that he can shake hands now because of his surgery."

    Sam was born with Cerebral Palsy and spent most of his life in foster care. Now, at age 19, he had lived in several group homes - some worse than others. He was now settled with "Miss Betty", a woman he spoke fondly of.

    As we interviewed him about his wish - a handicap accessible van - he joked about certain basketball stars declining abilities, his nickname "The MacDaddy" and his desire to someday have a family of his own.

    As he spoke my heart was part breaking, part beaming. His words of advice for other kids with disabilities "Focus on the positive. You can't feel sorry for yourself." were playing over and over in my head. There are mornings I get so frustrated that the dishes weren't done the night before, that the kids shoes are left on the stairs...I felt small.

    Sam continues to joke with us throughout the afternoon and I wonder if somewhere inside he is feeling a bit like that fish in the fishbowl. We are all smiling around him - careful with our words, overly kind. He knows evil, he knows there are terrible things, terrible people in this world. But he still chooses to smile back at us - he still chooses to wish.

    If you're interested in seeing video from our shoot that day, please visit
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