by Sian Tompson from the Courier-Islander:
It did not take long for Campbell Riverites, present and former, to respond to a lonely little boy who just wanted to belong.
On Friday the Courier-Islander told the story of Braedyn Stovman, a 12 year old with Down Syndrome and other challenges.
He just wanted to have friends. He just wanted to learn how to skateboard. He just wanted to be accepted for who he is.
Brandi Morrison-Stovman, Braedyn's mom, said she has had hundreds of replies to her facebook page offering encouragement and friendship.
"When I read this story this morning it made me sick to my stomach and I cried," said Lydia, Mike, Chris, and Zach in an email to the Courier-Islander. "We as a family would like to offer our friendship to both mother and son. Our 18-year-old son is willing to teach Braedyn to skateboard, he skateboards all the time and at one time wanted to go pro. He is willing to spend some time to teach him."
The family also has a younger son who is 3 1/2 and a match for Braedyn's small stature."Our little one would love a friend to play with. We would welcome with open arms and an open heart, Braedyn and his mom can come over anytime for a play date."
Kim Hutchison Solberg said, "I was reading your story and it breaks my heart how kids mistreat other kids for being disabled. I have a son who is five going into Kindergarten and I volunteer with Special Olympics and he comes and helps me coach sometimes. If your son would like a friend email me back. We would like to have a play at the park or something."
"I just wanted to say that I think you're an incredible mother to be doing all this for your son," said Leslie Nestman. "I can't imagine all those days you have been stressed, upset, mad at everyone who treats your little guy the way they do, but you haven't given up. You keep trying to give him the best life you possibly can."
Cole Smith is a skateboarder and has passed on the sport to a few young kids over many years as well as teaching disabled skiing at Mount Washington, where his dad still teaches. And he too wants to help Braedyn.
Kristie Richardson, a former Campbell Riverite now living in Puget Sound, saw the article online.
"Soon, my interest turned to sadness, then anger, then a feeling that I needed to do something. I wanted to do something," wrote Richardson who is the daughter of renowned First Nations artist Bill Henderson. She was born and raised in Campbell River.
"While I moved to the United States a long time ago, my heart resides in that little town that I feel my family is a huge part of," she said.
"Also, I'm a mom to a pretty amazing little boy named Noah, who has Down syndrome," said Richardson. "This is the primary reason why your story about Braedyn literally broke my heart. I imagined it being Noah, and I just felt compelled to do something more than just empathize with this very brave mom."
Richardson has been involved with the Down Syndrome Community of the Puget Sound for almost five years and participates in their annual Buddy Walk, a familystyle walk that raises awareness and promotes awareness.
"I know that BC doesn't have anything like this, and I would love to bring Braedyn and his mom to Seattle to walk with our team," she said.
Richardson said she remembers walking with Noah when he was only six months old, and she was embraced by this incredible community of really wonderful people.
"I want for Braedyn to feel that. I want him to feel like the "guest of honour" and be a part of this fun, one-mile walk around Seattle Center with a diverse group of amazing individuals. I want him to walk with friends," she wrote.
Zane Hudson, former youth leader in Campbell River and now living in Victoria, said he would teach skateboarding the next time the family was in Victoria, where they do travel to often.
Stovman said she is overwhelmed by the responses and that they came in so soon after the Aug. 9 article came out.
"I was offered a free week at a daycare where Braedyn could meet other young people who skateboard. We went on the weekend and he had a blast. He didn't want to leave," she said.
Neighbours have offered the little guy use of their pool, in response to him being left out of a neighbourhood pool party at one time.
"I have had offers for him to join the judo club in September, the karate club, all offering to help him and boost his confidence," said Stovman.
"I even had a message from a man in Vancouver whose son had shown him the article. He is a baseball coach and is willing to come over here and teach Braedyn to play ball."
Stovman, who asked that her facebook address be provided to our readers, wants very badly for the community to know there are a lot of good people in this town.
"I want the world to just accept all special needs kids, please come and play with them," she said.
Stovman also wants people to know that she is not the only support or friend Braedyn has. Her husband Cris has raised Braedyn since he was a baby, in fact, she said, "Braedyn fell in love with Cris before I did."
"He is an amazing father, so gentle with him when he met Braedyn at a year old, just after his diagnosis, weighing only 14 pounds."
Stovman's little brother Nick who is 22, adores his little nephew and her parents are also supportive.
"The problem is all the family is spread out from the United States to the Yukon," she said. "So it means so much that the local community has reached out in such a loving and generous way."
Stovman said that Braedyn just wants to belong, he wants to have friends.
"People need to think of other people's feelings and treat others like you would want to be treated. He is God's angel put on earth and he will leave sooner than most, I just want his time here to be happy," she said.
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