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It was a special meeting at Homewood’s Churchill
School when Kerry Lynch, left, and her daughter
Mary Cate, 4, front row left, met Matt and Cheri
Niemiec of Homewood, and daughters
Kaelyn, 5, and Hope, 9.

(Photo by Marilyn Thomas/H-F Chronicle)

An act of kindness can be as simple as a smile to a passer-by.

But sometimes that generous act isn’t shown to a person with a deformity. They get a frozen stare or ugly word. It’s a hurtful act that can be long lasting.

Hope Niemiec of Homewood and Mary Cate Lynch of Chicago’s Beverly neighborhood have gotten those stares because of their appearance affected by Apert Syndrome, a congenital disorder characterized by malformations of the skull, face, hands and feet. Over their lifetimes, the girls will undergo more than 40 surgeries.

In 2014, new mom Kerry Lynch saw her daughter, Mary Cate, receive the nasty stare and less than friendly comments at a local park. She wanted the kids to know Mary Cate was there to have fun, just like them. She started the Choose Kind Campaign in an effort to prevent the hurt.

The Choose Kind Campaign focuses on school children. So far Lynch and Mary Cate, 4, have visited more than 100 schools in the Chicago area. 

On Monday, April 18, they visited Homewood’s Churchill School where Mary Cate met Hope, a third grader who looked a lot like her.

“They look a little different on the outside, but they are the same (as you) on the inside,” Lynch told the third graders. Being out in the open will also help Mary Cate and Hope improve their self-confidence, Lynch said.

Lynch asked Churchill students about the actions of the students in the book “Wonder” that tells the story of Auggie, a student with a deformity trying to fit in at a new school. His new classmates finally recognize that Auggie is part of their community and they should be kind to him.

The book was voted the favorite book by Churchill students in a March contest.

“When given the choice, is it better to be right or be kind?” Lynch asks. The students tell her kind, and she has them repeat the pledge “I will choose kind.”

Hope, 9, has been making friends in District 153 schools since preschool at Willow School.

“The services she’s received are spot on. Just fantastic,” said her mom, Cheri Niemiec.

Hope’s fingers are without knuckles so they don’t bend for her to hold a pencil or crayon, but her teachers treat her like all the other kids in class.

“They make her write. There are no special implements” but Hope has managed to keep up, Cheri said.

Being special can be difficult at times, but on Monday Hope’s dad, Matt Niemiec, saw her as “the most popular kid in school.”

 

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