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HEROIC HUMANS IN ACTION: Marcel Fuller

"My name is Marcel Fuller. I am a wheelchair basketball player. I currently play for the Parasport Spurs in the NWBA. I am also a Youtuber, and a college student. It’s been a crazy journey to get to where I am today. Sometimes I lie awake at night thinking about how far I have come in my life. Never in my life did I imagine I would be playing wheelchair basketball for the NWBA.


I was born in Poland on May 18, 2000. I was born with one arm and no legs. I grew up in an orphanage until I was 6. I got adopted by an amazing couple from America. I went to the United States to live with an actual family. I had everything I could ever have wanted. Food, clothes, lots of toys, my own room, wonderful siblings, and even a silly dog named Tipper. I’ve always wanted to play sports, but it was too dangerous for me. I played challenger baseball for a while, but got tired of that. I would love to tell you that I had a perfect life without errors, but that would be a lie. I had a hard time transitioning from an orphanage to regular life. I got in trouble at school and I fought with my parents a lot (over the dumbest things now that I look back at it). I had everything a person could ask for, but I wanted to move out and live my life. I moved out with the help of my parents after my junior year to San Antonio. My Mom said this was the best place because it had so many things there. She told me I could go to college and play wheelchair sports and I was hooked. My first year out of the house was hard. All those lessons my parents taught me that I tried to ignore came back to me. Life as an adult is hard! I couldn't do whatever I wanted like I imagined. I learned many hard lessons after I moved out. I think moving out really changed my attitude towards life and I turned my life around. 

I got a GED and went to college (with my parents help). I am studying digital media in hope of becoming a social media marketer. I started a YouTube channel (called one arm wonder) to show people what life is like as an athlete. I’m currently in my second season with the Parasport Spurs. It has been an amazing journey for me. I get to do so many things that people only dream of doing. I get to play with an amazing group of people. I get to play against amazing athletes. I get to travel and even do a halftime show for the Spurs with my team. I’ve been super blessed by God to be able to do all that I’ve done."


@marcelfuller

HEROIC HUMANS
IN ACTION:
Maria Bloem 

"My name is Maria Bloem, I’m a 36 year old mother of two from NYC. Many of my adult years was in the pursuit of my fashion career, happiness and love, much like Carrie Bradshaw in Sex and the city; just less glamorous. My life was so chaotic it became normal to me. I had no idea my mental health was being effected so much. Fast forward through many dead end jobs and heartbreaking relationships (although they allowed me to travel the world and sit front row in fashion week) I knew my life had more meaning. My children helped ground me and gave me purpose, but shortly after I felt underwhelmed by my accomplishments, burnt out by life. I quit my job and focused on healing areas of my life I couldn't ignore anymore. 


Finally being diagnosed with bi polar disorder was life changing, I started going to therapy weekly and taking my anti depressants. Life changing! I felt empowered, in control and stable. For once in my life I wasn’t playing the victim, life is tough but it’s our mindset that makes it tougher. We are our biggest critics. About two years ago, I stepped out of my comfort zone and created my blog Oprahcomplex.com as a healing platform. It became a great coping skill in my mental health journey, and a way to connect to others who also have struggled with life’s troubles. Since then my writing has been featured in HBO’s The Inspiration Room, as well as on Iridescent women. My Oprahcomplex podcast is also a great platform for healing, where I share my thoughts and speak about topics that are important to me. A lot of women feel trapped by their roles, as mother or wife, or just what their families expect them to be. I share my story as a way to show others there’s no right way to live your life. There’s no linear path to success or healing, we’re all in this together. My goal is to become a motivational speaker and help other women heal and tap into their inner strength."


@oprahcomplex

HEROIC HUMANS
IN ACTION:
Gaylyn Henderson


"I was diagnosed with Crohn’s Disease at 14 years old and struggled immensely for over a decade due to the severity of my condition. I adapted my life to live while being in excruciating pain some days and in pain most. Crohn’sDisease took my health in every way possible. It distorted my mental and physical health. I became oblivious to the fact my quality of life was gone. Over the course of my life, I’ve had several surgeries, procedures, and multiple hospitalizations, with the overall goal of restoring my health and quality of life. My latest surgery I had a total proctocolectomy leaving me with an ileostomy. I held on as long as I could to my colon because if it didn’t work then what next. I was still striving to be “normal” by clinging to the very thing that was killing me. But it came a time that I had no choice, and it was the best thing that has happened to me. There is absolutely no way I would want to go back other than to do it sooner.


After my surgery, I couldn’t believe that one of the sole reasons I didn’t want an ostomy was because of the stigma. I decided then that I had to do something about it. In mainstream media it’s often referenced as having an ostomy in a negative connotation. It may seem trivial to some but popular cultural beliefs can be very impressionable to others. Society can make a drastic impact on a person’s decision to receive an ostomy and can have a drastic impact on a person living with an ostomy. 


Even though ostomy is lifesaving surgery many are reluctant to receive them because of the negative stigma. I didn’t want others to suffer unnecessarily as I did because of the negative stigma surrounding having and living with an ostomy. There is little to no positive awareness or programs specifically targeted at increasing self-worth as it relates to living with an ostomy. 


So, I started Gutless and Glamorous. The mission of Gutless and Glamorous is to empower those living with or contemplating ostomy surgery due to illness or injury and to erase the negative stigmas and misconceptions of living with an ostomy."


@gutlessandglamorous 

HEROIC HUMANS
IN ACTION:
Ben Nemptin

Can you share what the journey looked like from University student to The Buried Life TV Show and NYT’s Best Selling Book authors?

 

In University, my friends and I felt buried. We felt buried by school, by work, and by the day to day. As a result, we weren't doing the things that we truly wanted to do and we weren't happy. My friends Dave, Duncan, Jonnie and I got together and decided we were going to do something about this void we were feeling and asked ourselves the question, 'What do you want to do before you die'? We made a list of '100 things to do before you die' and decided that for every item we crossed off of our bucket list, we would help a complete stranger accomplish something on their list. Serendipitously, Jonnie was assigned a poem in English class called The Buried Life, which articulated our feelings to a tee so we decided to call this project The Buried Life. We borrowed an RV, bought a second hand camera so we could film the journey and hit the road for two weeks one summer to tackle our list. What happened next was a mix of luck and magic. People started to hear about our mission and wanted to help. Total strangers would contact us and offer to help us cross items off our list and on the flip side; people would send us their biggest dreams asking for our help. That two week road trip has lasted over 10 years and it has become a philosophy to live life by: prioritize the things that are important to you try not to get buried. Since then, we've crossed off items we thought were impossible, like #53: Make a TV Show, #19: Write a #1 New York Times Bestseller and #93: Play Basketball with President Obama. We've helped countless folks over the years and have learned that this resonates even more than doing things for yourself. 


Do you think it is important for everyone to have a bucket list and why do you think it is important?

 

Definitely. At its root, a bucket list a list of the most important things you want to do in your life. In other words, it is a list of things that you think will bring you the most fulfillment and happiness. It's important to stop and think about what you truly value. A lot of people have never done this. It's important to write the list because that helps you prioritize these things that deserve your energy and attention. So at a very basic level, a bucket list forces you to think about what’s important and reminds you to take steps towards those things. 


A lot of people just don’t know where to get started. Are there any secrets that work for you and the guys that you can share with us in terms of getting things checked off a bucket list?

 

That’s very common; here are six steps that will help you cross things off your bucket list:

 

1. Think About What's Important: Before you start your list, make sure you're going after the right things. Think about what's important to you, not what's important to your friends, your family or the people around you. Listen to your gut and your heart. What excites you? What makes you feel butterflies in your stomach just thinking about it? Get used to hearing people say you can't do it. If people say that you’re crazy, that's a good sign. If you’re scared, even better.

 

2. Write it Down: The act of writing it down means you're taking an idea in your head and you're making it real. You're taking something that's intangible and making it tangible. This gives your dreams their first breath of life.

 

3. Talk About Your List: If you don't talk about your list, no one can help you. Sometimes people keep their dreams inside because they are afraid of what others might think or that others will know if they fail. The reality is people will step up in the most unexpected ways to help you if you talk about your goals passionately and authentically (either in person or online). 

 

4. Persistence: It's not going to be easy and you're going to hear 'no' a lot. I've learned that 'no' doesn't always mean 'no', it usually means 'not now'. As a result, you may have to approach any potential roadblocks in a creative new ways. People trick themselves into thinking external forces are the reason they can't do something. I believe the simple truth is that you fail because you stop trying. 

 

5. Be Audacious: 99% of the world is convinced they can’t do great things so they aim for realistic goals. This means the level of competition is highest for realistic goals. Therefore, you have a better chance of achieving unrealistic goals because there is less competition. Do not underestimate yourself and overestimate the competition. You will surprise yourself. In addition, having a spectacular goal motivates you to keep moving forward and attracts likeminded people to your side.

 

6. Help Others: This fills you up in a way that doing things for yourself doesn't. In addition, when people see you out in the world helping others, they are more inclined to help you. The film Into the Wild has a great quote: "Happiness is only real when it's shared". When I look back at the past 10 years of crossing off list items, it's the moments when I've been able to step into someone else' life and share in their big moment that stick with me. 


Is there any advice you can give to friends or family in terms of supporting a teenager that might be going through depression?

 

Let them know they are not alone. A lot of kids struggle with this so they are not the only one. Encourage them to talk with someone and find a professional that they feel a connection with. Try and break the stigma of 'talking to a therapist'. If you play basketball, you have a basketball coach. We should all be so lucky as to have a coach in life - that's all a therapist is. It's simply someone who has more experience than you and can help you navigate tricky situations. The trick is finding someone they trust and connect with. Don't be discouraged if it takes a few cracks at the bat to find the right person.  

 

There are also great resources online for young people struggling with mental illness. I really like To Write Love on Her Arms and Jack.org

HEROIC HUMANS
IN ACTION:
Positively Glittered

"What started out as a fun way to spend the afternoon, has turned into a whirlwind adventure of self discovery, body positivity & glitter for us all. The amount of love & support that has been shown to us within our local community & all over the world has been overwhelming. We cannot thank you enough!


We began opening up our photoshoots to the public, since there was so much interest. Doing that has made the glitter experience so much more special. Having a group of strangers come together to build each other up & celebrate who they are is something so beautiful to watch. Strangers become friends & you see people’s relationships with their bodies change. We love sitting down & learning about the participants, learning why they’re here with us & what they’d like to gain from the experience. 


What empowered us to create this safe space & reinvent beauty standards? Because representation matters. We were so sick of seeing main stream media only promoting one body type as beautiful. All of us deserve to love & celebrate these incredible bodies we have. They carry us through life, they enable us to enjoy so many life experiences. What matters to us is celebrating who we are & what we can do. Not what shape or size your body is. 

We know many women, myself included, can feel quite vulnerable doing a photo shoot like this. That’s why we create a warm & welcoming environment where we can talk freely. We are here to build each other up. Console & encourage those who feel negatively towards their bodies, and cheer on those who already have the confidence. We are here letting individual women know they can be happy in the body that they’re in."


Follow along with Positively Better and all of their events and initiatives here: @positivelyglittered 

HEROIC HUMANS IN ACTION:
Angelica Pasquali

Everyone, Meet Angelica: 



"Hey there! I am Angelica Pasquali, an award-winning New Jersey based artist that combines art and activism using primarily photography and videography to create media for the better. Since 2014, I’ve established my business Luna AP Photography. In that time, I’ve produced several professional campaigns, ads, videos, and designs. My art aims to intrigue audiences, provoke thought, and most importantly, guide future actions. I address social and global issues with my art to educate, influence, and spark active change. 


How did this all start? With a worm. In the very beginning, I photographed a worm on a trail and I realized that I could make that little, "insignificant" worm be the main focus of my photo. Since then, I saw the power that media holds within people's mindsets and perspectives and I wanted to utilize that in a positive way. By using photography, I bring awareness, action, and information to issues I hold to the upmost importance such as mental health and environmental protection. The best part? Through my projects, I get to meet new people, tell their stories, and work together to making a difference. By combining art and activism, I have created a community of individuals who together are actively making their mark in this world. Ever since that worm, I have not put down a camera. It is my mission to positively impact as many people as possible using creative, professional works of art."


Stay connected with Angelica and follow along on her journey with photography and activism here: @luna.ap.photography

HEROIC HUMANS
IN ACTION:
Ran Miller



Everyone, Meet Ran:

"I was born and raised in Annapolis, Maryland. An only child born with the ethos that anything can be solved by eating steamed crabs, listening to Jimmy Buffett or simply being on the water. Despite being born with the Craniofacial Birth Defect; FrontoNasal Dysplasia Sequence or Cleft Face for short, my parents tried to normalize my childhood as much as possible. 


Shortly before my fifth surgery, my parents explained to me that everyone gets a “new” nose during their life. I was always told by my dad that I was never to use my birth defect as an excuse, and if I worked hard enough I could do anything everyone else could. Due to my Cleft (which according to Children’s Craniofacial Association has only 100 submitted cases as of 1996.) I was born wider in my face, my eyes needed to be moved, my skull flipped to aid in the growing process and my nose got reconstructed. All together from the surgeries, as well the unknown consequences of my Cleft, I have had between 17-22 surgeries. My mom and I have lost count.


I have always been one to give back. My mom instilled that upon me through her actions and those of her parents. My grandparents owned a bar and restaurant in Baltimore well into the 1980's.There my mom saw firsthand how generosity and compassion can make the world better. My mom instilled in me those traits such as being kind, and giving to others less fortunate. Even today hearing stories of my grandparents whom gave so much not in monetary amounts, but without spoken words saying You Are Enough. When I was a child I was very much a Advocate. I would donate my old toys and clothes to children in need .I was also obsessed with the well being of sharks and conservation efforts. After September 11, I had my nanny secretly send letters I had written to soldiers overseas. 


In regards to my advocacy for Craniofacial Birth Defects, it has become quite a journey. As I said, my parents wanted me to be normal. We never joined any support groups or associations. For my parents, and even for myself, it was just something that happened randomly and you move on from it. It wasn’t even until a corrective surgery needed for my nose collapsing that I thought about advocating. I had tweeted several celebrities on a whim, such as TJ Lavin, and Rebecca Crews. I still remember the tweet where I said “tomorrow I will have my 20th Craniofacial Birth Defect surgery, Please RT. Seeing the impact not just by the celebrities in responding but the chain reaction it started with strangers sending positive vibes and messages my way. 


After taking an anthropology class at the University of Kentucky, it steered my life and my professional goals toward Advocating and giving back. The introductory class gave me the understanding that each person should care about what is happening to another. Before this, I would see things on the news about a natural disaster, for example, and I would feel bad but I didn’t have the comprehensive understanding that we as a society must take care of each other, even if a terrorist attack, a hurricane, or a war isn’t immediately affecting us directly. 


That was the definitive moment when I finally understood how to proceed in advocating. 

Since that moment I have been teetering between advocating for Craniofacial Birth Defects as well as Human Trafficking awareness, Foster Youth, Ocean Conservation, Gun Violence Awareness (I have PTSD from a shooting in South Carolina, as well as the DC sniper having been friends with a boy as a teen that murdered his entire family). Additionally, survivors guilt when a shooting happened somewhere such as Annapolis by my old school and in the same building I had been in months earlier to the Las Vegas mass shooting having spent an afternoon at Mandalay Bay and knowing of its lax security, as well as becoming familiar with other causes such as Reach Out World Wide, which aids in disaster relief and showing the complications of my Cleft. 


I was honoured when in 2016, shortly before my most recent surgery, the Press Association wanted to do a feature on me based on an Instagram post. The article made its rounds around foreign newspapers and was the beginnings of Someone’s Little Sister Campaign. I started Someone’s Little Sister initially as a hashtag to bring awareness to Craniofacial Birth Defects then it morphed into rare clefts such as mine; before I finally had a clear vision and intention of what I wanted it to be. Now, Someone’s Little Sister is a springboard for connecting fellow clefties with one another and eventually my hope is to work with Craniofacial organisations to set up a database search engine that would connect new clefties with someone older with the exact same Cleft. As well as being able to share what challenges may await them and any health issues possibly caused by their unique birth defect. For me, this would have been a vital tool for my parents. My mom could have been made aware that blindness is possible and that I wouldn’t be able to drive; or that I cannot have children due to endometriosis and an enlarged Spleen and Gallbladder.


The most common question I get after telling people my story is “How are you able to keep going and not give up?”. Whenever I am asked this it’s resemblance to a trick question whenever you have a job interview. My answer? I don’t know! I truly don’t. There is this force inside of me that will not give up. Even now I’m unable to do normal things due to my PTSD. So I Advocate, I volunteer online and I am ready to try again at finishing college after needing time off. I am currently studying for the LSAT ,aiming to finish my degree in 2.5 years and then go onto Law School and keep advocating.


To go back to the question from before, Me! My understanding that I am enough, I am a survivor! And if I can make my mom, my grandpa and uncle (whom I am named after) smile down on me, I have been successful."


Check out more about Ran, her initiatives and her story here: @mranmiller

HEROIC HUMANS
IN ACTION:
Stacy-Ann Buchanan 

Everyone, Meet Stacy-Ann:

Seven years ago I was battling depression and suicial thoughts. Every. Single. Day.


My depression came in two stages:


I had days where I went without brushing my teeth, without combing my hair, without taking a shower, without eating and where getting up out of bed seemed liked the hardest task in the world.


On the flip side...

I had days where my nails were done, my hair was laid, I was rocking the hottest outfits and I was partying and having a good 'ole time.


You see, I knew I wasn't well on the inside, so I tried to mask it on the outside by looking fantastic and having fun! It was a facade. 


I had no idea what was happening to me. All I knew was that I was battling with my mind daily and that I was constantly exhausted. 


I was struggling with depression. I was suicidal. I was ashamed and felt all alone.


The only person I felt safe to confide in was my father. But even he couldn't help me. He saw my mental illness as a weakness and suggested I read my bible daily, drink tea and pray about it. 


And boy, oh boy did I drink tea. I drank so much tea I could have started a tea emporium. I read my bible daily and I prayed constantly. 


Still the feelings of despair and unworthiness hover over me.


I questioned my faith and I challenged how I was raised - our acceptance of seeing a doctor for our physical ailments but being reluctant to see a doctor for our minds.


That is why I created The Blind Stigma, a documentary that takes a look at how mental illness is perceived within the Black Community. 

I wanted to shed light on the very stigmas that have and still are plaguing the Black Community. I wanted to raise awareness. I wanted to address the elephant in the room. I wanted to remove the veil of shame that has been worn for decades. I wanted to get people talking. And more importantly, I wanted everyone who has/is battling or struggling with any form of mental illness to know that they are NOT alone!


Take a look at the girl in this photo.

Now ask yourself.. what does a person who struggles with mental illness look like?

Then swipe left.

They look like me. 

They look like you. 

They look like us.


Please allow me to introduce myself. My name is Stacy-Ann Buchanan and I'm actress, TEDx speaker, filmmaker and more importantly, I am a mental health advocate who is working towards changing the stigma on how mental health is perceived."


Stay connected with Stacy-Ann here: @stacyannbuchanan

HEROIC HUMANS
IN ACTION:
Bailey Kennedy

On 4th of July weekend I my husband and I were up north at my family's camp--Goose Pond. 


We loved it there. My Momma LOVED it there. So care free, camp fires, corn hole, our rooftop tent among all of the boujee campers ;) and of course floating on those inner tubes in that pond! I can picture clear as day my Momma running out of her camper with cocktails in her hands screaming and celebrating that we were finally there!


And then there was Lake Bonaparte... an amazing shallow lake where we would drive the 4-wheelers in a big caravan from camp to the lake... get out our camp chairs and just hang in the water. It's one of those amazing sand bar type lakes where you can touch almost as far as you can see! We also all really, really loved it there.

So on July 5th morning we got on those 4-wheelers... caravanned to Lake Bonaparte, did our hangin out thang for a few hours, got hungry so we ordered some yummy subs from the corner store, and decided it was time to pack it up.


So we took our last few group selfies and then... I blacked out.


I finally come to... and I am in the ER... my leg was jacked and I was surrounded by my in-laws... and not my Momma... I couldn't remember what happened (and thank the mother fucking universe I still don't) but sometimes you just know... and I knew in my soul...


My Momma and I were on the same 4-wheeler... it had started to rain... she perhaps overcorrected to miss the on-coming giant truck... and it was the wrong move.


In an instant... She was gone. We were both laying on the pavement when the rest of my family caught up to us... I still cry thinking of how disgusting and cruel for them to have to see that accident scene.


I was mercy flighted and went into a 14 hour surgery. They harvested a vein from my left leg in hopes to save my right leg... As you can see... It didn't work. I had an open-book pelvic fracture, head lacerations (yes I was wearing my helmet, but it flew off. If I hadn't been wearing it I would be dead! So quick little *wear your helmet PSA*), broken ribs, broken lower back vertebrae, and a big list of many other things. I am extremely lucky to still be here...


In a mere blink of an eye, I was now a 28 year old woman who lost her Momma, lost her leg, and honestly... lost her way.


Maneuvering my recovery and this new life without her? What a Fucking nightmare. HOW COULD THIS BE HAPPENING TO ME?! But I was raised by that amazing STRONG, independent, BRAVE, beautiful woman, and despite the gut-wrenching challenge of waking up each day, getting out of bed, and still trying to kick some ass... I DO IT. I do it because I can hear her telling me to get up and Keep. Fucking. Going.

You see my Momma had MS. She had numb hands from the nerve issues MS brings on and she never missed a day of work as a hair stylist... where she used her hands ALL day. She never complained. She didn't let her disease define her. She is the reason I have the outlook that I do on this new chapter of my life.


And let me tell you... before July 5th I was on TOP of my game. Mind, body, and soul were as healthy as they had ever been. I was finally able to keep up with my trail marathon running, crossfitting, hiking, super freaking fit husband. Our life revolved around hiking and anything outdoors... and now? How would I EVER get back to that life like THIS?!


But I can promise you. I work every. single. day. to get back to the life I had before all of this. I do it because I know I can. I do it for my mom. I do it for me.


I choose to let my new imperfections shine. Why hide my beautiful body that legit healed itself and fought to still be here. Why let this trauma define my life? WHY take advantage of a second chance!?


I have a constant reminder with this amputation about the accident... and about the fact that my Momma didn't get to be as lucky as me... and it eats at my soul every day.


I THOUGHT I was living each day to the fullest... but boy do I wake up now and actually count my blessings. I take time to breathe in the fresh air. I take time to ask people how they are and actually freaking listen. I take time to say thank you and I appreciate you. I take time to put my hand on my damn heart and be thankful that I. am. still. fucking. here. I will find myself again. I will find the self love that I had prior to this accident.


Bottom line is that we can't let life pass us by. We have to be soaking up every single ounce of each and every day.


I know all to well now, more than ever that we don't know when it's going to be our last."


Stay connected and follow along with Bailey here: @baileyrkennedy

HEROIC HUMANS
IN ACTION:
Marcel Fuller

WHAT WE DO.

Heroic Humans is a social impact movement that provides a gathering space for inspiration, celebration and empowerment. We aim to foster connections among heroic people and groups, helping to establish a broader reach and more profound influence on their individual communities. We care about authentic connections and the power behind all people and passions. Let’s join forces and recognize those who make a difference.

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YOU FIND HEROIC

Heroism comes in all forms. Whether it’s someone who lights you up, inspires you or others, or pours your favorite cup of coffee; everyone has their own story to tell and a life to change.

With your help, we can uncover raw emotion and vulnerability, overcome adverse conditions, and applaud human empowerment in all its forms.

Submit your Heroic Human and share their impact with us. We’d love to get to know them!  

HEROISM LIVES HERE