• Kristina Mulligan


Flynn wearing his green "Fly With Your Own Wings" cape, leading his team.
Flynn wearing his "Fly With Your Own Wings" cape, leading his team.

ThinkDIFFERENTLY is a call to action to create a supportive and welcoming environment for those living with special needs.”

– Marc Molinaro, Dutchess County Executive

Launched by Dutchess County Executive Marc Molinaro in 2015, the “ThinkDIFFERENTLY” initiative was created to change the way every part of the community relates to those with special needs. The goal is to lift one another up, while focusing on what each person can do, and not what they cannot.ThinkDIFFERENTLY hosts various events throughout the year, catering to all abilities and promoting inclusion within the community. This past Friday, September 6th, our family participated in the 4th Annual ThinkDIFFERENTLY Dash in Poughkeepsie.

The event was a one mile walk/run for people of all abilities, and we were proud to race alongside every participant sporting our capes for our team, Flynn's Superheroes. In spite of the wind and rain, over 400 people were registered to participate. It was a really amazing thing to witness, people encouraging one another, helping each other, and traveling together from start to finish. I am not a runner - really, I'm not athletic by any means - but I certainly felt an extra spring in my step walking amidst the community of people that attended on Friday night. Our finishing time was 11:11, which I think is pretty magical, as well. Almost a sign that we were meant to be there, I think; don't you?

As we traveled along the route of the race, people were gathered on the sidewalks. Some were loved ones of race participants, some were people carrying on with their daily business who had paused to cheer us on, and others were local business owners and employees who stopped what they were doing to come outside and encourage everyone to keep moving. As I pushed Flynn in his stroller rounding that final corner, I felt tears sting behind my eyes. They weren't tears of sadness, not far from happiness, but they were tears of relief. And though I held them back, I wanted to stop and stay in that moment for as long as I could. Not because I enjoyed the applause, but because I finally felt that I found my people. Whatever this journey of special needs holds for us, we are going to be okay. There is an amazing community out there of families just like ours, who are lifting each other up, cheering other on, flying with their own wings.

I needed to see it. I needed to feel it around me. And I am so grateful that, despite the weather, we were there. Together.

Flynn with his finisher medal.
Flynn with his finisher medal. Photo courtesy of Ryan Miller.

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