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‘Kindness is cool:’ Teen celebrates his differences using grace, humor to teach others

Peter Dankelson is a pretty typical high school kid. He enjoys fencing, plays electric guitar  and annoys his little brother.  But he looks a little different.  Peter was born with Goldenhar syndrome.

He was born 10-weeks early and weighed just over two pounds.  He had breathing troubles and couldn’t be moved.  He needed a feeding tube and trach tube to survive.

Peter has a fantastic sense of humor which he, his mother Dede and his younger brother Jacob are sharing with kids across the country.  Peter explains his physical differences, points out his similarities and teaches other kids how to choose kindness.

During the Great Kindness Challenge Week, Peter spoke to 3rd and 4th grade students at Half Day Middle School in Lincolnshire.  He showed them all the things he’s dealt with in his 16 years of life, including 28 surgeries.

It’s a presentation which came to fruition back in 2013 after Peter was asked to perform a live reading of the bestselling book “Wonder” alongside actor Ed O’Neil on a California stage.  The north suburban high school sophomore’s life is a stunning parallel to Auggie, the main character in the book..

“We joke about this sometimes,” Peter says.  “It’s almost like the author had a telescope and was watching our lives when she wrote the book.”

Peter has met the author, R.J. Palacio and has even been on the set of the big Hollywood movie about it now in production and has become the live ambassador to the message on its pages.

“’Wonder’ is good for introducing everything but I think when I come in I bring it all to life,” Peter says.

Peter grew up a little different on the outside, but just like everyone else on the inside.  He is asking fellow students to remember kindness is something we all can give.

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