Tina Williams: September 2019 Barefoot Writing Challenge Winner

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Congratulations to Tina Williams for Winning the September 2019 Barefoot Writing Challenge! (Your $100 prize is on its way!)

The challenge was to write an essay that answered this prompt:

If you could write for and help any cause or charity in the world, what would it be and why?

Tina shared a glimpse into her difficult but rewarding journey as a parent navigating her daughter’s diagnosis and explains where she would love to use her writing skills in that role. We hope you’ll be as moved as we were by her winning submission:


Ten years ago, I had a baby girl. A cause for joy, excitement, and celebration, right?

Of course, it was all of those things. The day my daughter was born was one of the happiest of my life.

It was also one of the most terrifying.

Not just because I was a new mom. That’s scary enough in itself, and something every new mom goes through.

But my baby was born with spina bifida, a birth defect of the spinal cord. Because of the damage to the spinal nerves, she would have problems with mobility — perhaps even end up in a wheelchair. She’d have bladder and bowel function issues, needing catheters, enemas, laxatives, medication, maybe surgery.

A host of other possible complications glared at me: hydrocephalus (swelling in the brain), learning disabilities, orthopedic problems, potential surgery upon surgery upon surgery.

I felt a lot of things at the time: heartbreak, rage, despair, enormous fear and panic. I did the only thing I could think of to do in the face of that helplessness — I went online and researched everything I could on spina bifida.

It was kind of a nightmare, however. I was presented with a list of all the horrible things that could go wrong with my child.

But then I found the Spina Bifida Association. Along with all the medical information that goes with spina bifida, I found stories of hope. Real stories about real families coping with this complex birth defect.

I saw happy, smiling children. I saw children going beyond what their doctors had predicted. Children whose doctors had warned that they would never walk, children whose “quality of life” they questioned and urged parents to terminate.

The SBA did offer plenty of technical explanations about the condition, as well as provide resources that a family raising such a child might need. But it gave me more than a dire diagnosis — it offered me a glimpse of what might be.

A smiling, happy child. Support during challenging times. The conviction that these children — my child — deserve fulfilling lives and can achieve it.

It hasn’t been easy raising a child with spina bifida (although Lilly’s sweet personality makes it easier). But with the help of the SBA, it’s been an amazing experience. I have an amazing child. A happy child.

If I could help even one parent navigate the confusing medical maze that is spina bifida — and, just as important, give them hope — it would bring me joy. I’m not much of an organizer of events or fund-raisers; I’ve never marched on Washington or written my representatives in Congress for supportive legislation (though I should!).

 No; copywriting would be my form of advocacy.

That’s why the Spina Bifida Association is my dream nonprofit organization to write for. To have a job I love — writing — while giving back to the group of people who helped me when I needed it (and still help when I need it) would be gratifying indeed.

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