Stand With Mario

The moment you finish reading this, your life will never be the same. Mario does that to people – he changes them.

“Let’s sell hats and change the world.” – Super Mario

I had the pleasure of meeting Mario over video this week and when his mom told me about the morning that Mario said to her, “Let’s sell hats and change the world”, I knew he was special. Well, I actually knew well before that, but this sealed the deal. I’ll tell you more about how he is changing the world with hats, but first I want to tell you more about him.

Mario was born in 1999 in the back of an ambulance. You read that right – he was born in the back of an ambulance and he had no signs of life when he arrived. He was saved by the paramedic after 7 minutes of resuscitation. When they arrived at the ER, the doctor said he wouldn’t have even tried to revive him. Being born in an ambulance to the hands of a paramedic saved his life. Mario’s faith is strong and from day 1, his life has been a testament of his faith.

Doctors said he would never survive…then they said he would never eat…that he would never talk…that he would never walk.  Well, so far he’s done all but walk – which he’s overcome in abundance. He gets everywhere he wants to be with the massive strength of his arms, as he’d rather travel on his own than in a wheelchair. And as for surviving…eating…talking…well, he’s doing just fine!

Among his long list of things he has overcome are two rare syndromes – Caudal Regression Syndrome and Golden Har Syndrome. He has survived open heart surgery, stomach surgery, intestinal surgery, hernia repair, G-Tube placement and removal.  But at 18 years old (he’ll be 19 next week) he is much more than a survivor. Against all odds and with strength from his faith in God, Mario is thriving.

He finds joy in dancing, specifically to his favorite Taylor Swift song, Shake it Off. He loves cheeseburgers and pizza. He loves living in California but is hesitant about surfing (though he’s done that, too). He spent nearly a whole day in the company of Tim Tebow – who is now a big Mario fan (not surprisingly). He’s one of the friendliest guys I’ve ever met and in our brief time together over video he showered me with heart-felt compliments. He made me feel so special – I imagine he makes a lot of people feel special.

While I think it takes merely 20 seconds to realize that Mario’s super powers are limitless, peers in his life have not always taken the time to learn this. Instead, he has often been met with bullying – the kind of bullying that hurts you externally, and hurts you internally even more.

One morning, after a hard week at school, Mario decided he’d had enough. He woke up, and told his mom that he was going to put an end to bullying. “Let’s sell hats and change the world!” While his mom admits that at first it seemed like a pretty far-fetched dream, per usual, Mario took action anyway and soon she saw his potential yet again.

“Stand With Mario” is his campaign to end bullying. Mario wants to support kids who have been hurt by peers and he wants to educate kids about acceptance and kindness. He wants to create opportunities for kids to be buddies instead of bullies, and he is doing this with Buddy Benches.

Buddy Benches were inspired by a boy named Christian who wanted to bring something to his elementary school to “eliminate loneliness and foster friendship on the playground.” The idea caught fire and now buddy benches can be found all over the country.

Mario soon began selling T-Shirts, sweatshirts and hats, using the proceeds to place buddy benches at elementary schools. It costs around $500 for Mario to bring a buddy bench at a school and already Mario has raised enough money for 3! His goal is to place 24 buddy benches at 24 elementary schools.

When Mario sees people, he does not see their limitations. When he sees problems, he doesn’t see dead ends. So when Mario reflected on how bullying affected him, he took action to end it for everyone else.

Mario’s mom plays no small role in all of this. She actually is his adoptive mother and clearly lives with a faith in God and belief in her son. In our “meeting” she wanted to make sure that other moms who were dealing with medically fragile children could see the hope that lies in Mario’s life.

“It is so daunting – the doctor’s appointments, therapies…but it is worth it.”

Talking with Mario made me so excited. Of course I am excited for the work he is doing and I am honored to join his journey, but if you think of the thousands of TinySuperheroes on our Squad, and how one day they will all be grown like Mario with ideas of their own…well gosh – our Squad really could change the world!

You can support Mario’s mission and buy his awesome gear or donate a “Hero” hat to an amazing kid by clicking here.


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