Appalling Letter Sent to Newark Family Goes Viral

Mickey, Valerie, Ken and KJ Jerram

An anonymous letter asking a Newark family to keep their special needs daughter away from a little league ballpark has gone international, with thousands of Facebook commenters rushing to the mom’s side in deploring the ugly sentiments.

Ken and Valerie Jerram spoke to Town Square Delaware today about their 23-year-old daughter Mickey, who is deaf and mute, and the incredible outpouring of support they have received from people in Delaware, across the country and around the world.

Since Saturday night, a staggering 8,000 people have shared Val’s post, 12,000 have reacted to it and hundreds have commented publicly from points as far as Texas, Michigan, and even Australia and New Zealand.

 

Valerie Jerram posted the letter to Facebook on Saturday after it was left taped to her mailbox by a nameless local resident, presumably also a parent of a child in the Midway Little League where her son has played for nine years. In fact, the family consider the Midway ballpark a second home – confirmed by the hand-painted wooden sign adorned with a pretty ribbon on the front door of their home: “If we don’t answer, check the ball field.”

The letter, printed all in caps, asked the Jerrams to keep their daughter away from the baseball field this season and also chastised Valerie for writing too much about Mickey on Facebook and for not keeping her tone more positive. “We all get so tired of reading about Mickey, her seizures and her injury,” the anonymous author wrote.

Here is the letter the Jerrams received on Saturday:

Many who commented on Facebook said that Valerie Jerram’s response to the letter was written with kindness and grace:

Valerie Jerram said she is truly humbled by the incredible reaction to her post on Facebook.

“I thought, a few friends would comment, saying, ‘Wow, it’s all right, you got this, don’t worry about it.’ But I have over 500 private messages. And every time I respond to one, another one comes in. I’ve had a thousand friend requests in the past three days, and the comments, the private messages make me cry. It’s just like, I’ll be reading one and I start crying. There are so many kids out there, like Mickey who just want to be accepted and want to be treated like every other kid. And we’re not alone. There’s so many more, and it’s happened to all of them at some point,” she said. “I think it’s just resonated with people with kids in general that have been bullied in schools and stuff like that.”

 

“We’re still kind of stunned by the whole thing. We’re really overwhelmed with it actually,” said Ken. “There are a lot of people who have challenges in their life with their children like we do. But we didn’t think it was going to get this kind of exposure,” he said.

Ken and Valerie say they are used to tough reactions to their daughter Mickey – they’ve been living with surprised looks and some mean comments about her for more than two decades.

 

They say Mickey was nine months old when she was misdiagnosed with croup by doctors in New Jersey, where the family used to live. When she was finally transferred to Nemours/A.I. du Pont Hospital for Children, doctors there performed a spinal tap and provided the grim diagnosis of spinal meningitis. According to Ken, her situation got progressively worse before it improved. The disease took a massive toll on their daughter robbing her of her ability to hear and speak and impairing her cognitive ability. She also cannot read, but she can sign.

The Jerrams have five children – four daughters and a son, ranging in ages from 14 to 27. Kenny “KJ” their youngest, rose through every level of baseball at Midway Field — T-ball, Minor A, Minor B, Majors and now Junior Seniors. He starts his first day at Delaware Military Academy tomorrow.

Kenny Jerram and his sister Mickey. She loves going to his baseball games at Midway Little League.

The Jerrams said that in the nine years they have been active at Midway including countless hours staffing the concession stand, they have never heard of a family wishing that they would leave their daughter Mickey at home. “We don’t know if it might be a new parent (who sent us the letter). We have our suspicions of who we think it might have been, but we’re not going to point fingers,” said Ken.

When asked what motivated the letter, Valerie and Ken said experience has given them perspective on behavior that most would find atrocious. “Honestly, I’ve read it 100 times, and I don’t think it’s bullying. I think it’s somebody that’s afraid. Like, so instead of saying, ‘Hey, can you teach me a few signs on how to talk to her?’ They’re like, ‘Can you just keep her away from me, so I don’t have to learn something new.’ That’s the way I’m taking it — as fear of Mickey being different, and the writer not knowing how to deal with it,” said Valerie.

 

But make no mistake, Ken and Valerie are angered about the letter. “There’s been so much through the years that if I were to feed off that anger, we would be miserable. And I don’t want to be miserable. And I want to be that mom that makes a difference for all the other kids and all the other moms. This is not funny. But I try to look at things with a sense humor. Like when we found out she was deaf, I was just so happy she wasn’t blind.”

He added that they really don’t want this to interfere with what Kenny has to do up at the baseball field. “We don’t want bad feelings with anybody up there. We have a good time there and we like the organization. Midway is a great organization,” he said.

Kenny’s sisters, including Mickey, love coming to watch his games at Midway Little League. Photo from Valerie Jerram’s Facebook page.

Valerie says she spends most of every day with her daughter, and even started a business based in her home so she could earn a living while looking after Mickey – even including her in the home crafts enterprise.

Ken and Valerie describe their daughter Mickey as “almost overly friendly.” They say she loves animals — and trips to Carousel Park — and that she has many friends at the baseball field. But they say she was shy and introverted until her baby brother joined T-ball.

The Jerrams say the baseball field is like a second home to Mickey

“Baseball has opened up a whole new world to her, where she wants to go up there and participate and watch,” said mom Valerie. “It’s like before she just wanted to stay home and didn’t want to go anywhere. But now she likes to go to the field and talk to the kids and go to the concession stand and sell her food. Even at home she is always asking (using sign language) ‘Can we cook hot dogs?’ We smell like hot dogs all summer!”

 

Ken and Valerie conceded that their initial “gut” response to the anonymous letter was to have Valerie stay home with Mickey. But they quickly realized that more than denying their daughter time out of the house and one of her greatest seasonal pleasures, they would be depriving their son of something that also brings him great joy.

“It means everything to me to have my sister at the games. She cheers me on and she has such a good time there,” said Kenny. “I’m hoping Mickey will still be able to come to the ball field, watch my games and still be able to communicate and play with the kids she likes to play with,” he said.

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About the Contributor

Christy Fleming

Christy Fleming

The managing editor of TownSquareDelaware.com, Christy Fleming also supports a variety of non-profit initiatives in Delaware. Her background includes positions in public relations, advertising and journalism.

18 Comments

  • When I read the letter in all CAPS, with misspellings, I wondered if they did that to make the letter more anonymous than it was with no signature. It is a compliment to call this woman a coward and I wonder if the other women she’s referring to actually concur, or if she was just trying to seem like she wasn’t the only ableist, ignorant jerk that’s trying to be a mail thug, but too scared to say it personally. I imagine that the author of this letter is not very happy nor positive to have such a hateful manner of speaking and thinking. I commend this family for the response they’ve given. I am furious and appalled just reading it, never having met Mickey’s family. I think an army of families should walk in behind them and show the love and support that “Mom to Mom” really means. If anyone should stay home it should be this cowardly, ignorant person that doesn’t deserve to even know Mickey.

  • WOW. what is wrong with some people. whatever happened to all people are equal? I have an autistic 32 yr old son and I get that ignorance sometimes. please don’t leave your daughter at home. Maybe the person that wrote that letter should stay at home. I am really upset for your daughter, I cannot believe some people can be so ignorant and so uninformed. it makes me want to cry.

  • It’s sad how some people have such intolerance to differences and a grotesque lack of compassion. I’m glad that the people on facebook showed this family love and kindness. It does exist in this world.

  • Your insightfulness & direct manner in which you handled the situation goes beyond courageous & commendable; perfection 100%!
    Anyone who has ever raised a child, labeled with a disability of ANY DEGREE can relate to the struggles, love, fun, & unexpected events (good & bad) a part of normal life!
    I think Fear, Insecurity, low Self- esteem, & ignorance make this grown-up Bully the One, with the disability & NOT YOUR DAUGHTER!!
    Our schools preach constantly about “NO BULLYING TOLERANCE ACCEPTED EVER!” But what they DON’T MENTION ANYTHING ABOUT KID BULLIES TURN INTO ADULT BULLIES LATER ON!
    Stay exactly the way you are with dignity, grace & kindness.

  • This happened to my son too in Lower Merion, PA who played in Penn Valley Basketball League. We didn’t receive a letter-NO. – something even worse…..When the team made it to the basketball playoffs, his coaches did not call me for my son to be in the playoffs. I didn’t find out about the game until after it was published in the local newspaper-Main line Times. The team should have been disqualified – but no not here. No apologies, no recognition of my son and I could go on and on. imagine sending your son to a prep school and you have “no class” yourself. perhaps his son learned some there and can teach it to his father. What a heartless organization!

  • My child plays at Midway and I have seen Mickey on several occasions. She is not creepy or weird. She is a happy girl who love the ball field. To the person who wrote the note, maybe you should consider switching leagues if Mickey makes you uncomfortable

  • What a wonderful family Mikey has! She is lucky to have such a strong support system. at home and on the ball field. Hopefully this other parent will never be faced with a life changing devastating diagnosis like the Jerram’s, my family, and so many others have. I wonder if they would be able to still love, accept and support their own child if he or she were suddenly disabled or if they would just stuff them in a corner at home and pretend they no longer exist. To The Jerram family, BRAVO! Keep doing what you’re doing, I wish my daughter could be more comfortable going “out in public”, but because of people like the coward who hid behind an anonymous letter, we’re not there yet. Unfortunately, ignorant people are everywhere.

  • This isn’t the first story I’ve seen about someone leaving a letter like this anonymously to the parents of special needs children. However with every one I see I get more and more angered and curious how anyone can be just so damn cruel! I have Autism so when something like this comes up it offends me on a personal level. The fact that the person who did this didn’t own up to it in any way shows that they knew what the result would be and that the community most definitely does not stand with them. There are lines you just don’t cross and this is certainly one of them. It’s too bad that it’s not a crime to write something like this because in the court of public opinion they would be executed without delay. I do hope they find out who it was and they are shamed publicly for their actions.

  • I work as a bus aide and this summer I had the privilege of working with children who have various special needs anywhere from autistic to nonverbal to wheelchair-bound etc I will admit I was afraid at first because there was only one of me and about 12 to 15 children all with different needs and I wondered could I give them all the proper level of care with the ratio they were wonderful to work with and they made me look forward to the next day to be able to see them they are indeed special in their own unique way and filled my heart with joy I have grown such a sincere appreciation for children with special needs they light up my day the ones that are non-verbal their eyes would light up and they would smile when they would see me and there smiles touched a place in my heart so much so that on the last day of summer school I cried I actually asked some of the parents if it was okay to stay in contact with them and I am looking forward to next summer to work with them again I am so sorry that your family had to get such a nasty letter from someone so ignorant and misinformed they’re not worthy of your beautiful daughter Mickey

  • I can totally relate to this family’s hurt and outrage. My Special needs daughter was asked not to attend her ballet class anymore because some of the newer students are not OK with having a person like her in their class. She loved that class and don’t know how to tell her she’s been banned from it.

  • I think I will attend MIDWAY just for Fun. My son Jon would Love to come and watch Baseball. He has Down Syndrome and is a powerlifter. He is a big man. I think he would scare KIDS… But it might expose a few kids to other disabilities. Jon is a sweetheart. No malicious intent in his entire body. Until someone tries to take away his rights because he is different.

    MICKEY never give up going to the baseball field, We and many others would support you in a heart beat.

  • It literally made me sick reading that letter. The cruelty and downright disgust of this ignorant person are just simply beyond words for me right now. What I would like to say is that Ken and Valerie, you have more grace and dignity than the coward who is just that a coward who can’t even come to you speak with you face to face. Keep on keeping on. Hold strong to your faith as you have always done. God bless and keep you and your family is my prayer!

  • I am saddened by the lack of compassion in the world today. Unfortunately, this is nothing new. Many people are bullied or discriminated against for being seen as different. Regardless of the reasons whether it is from intolerance, ignorance, or fear dening someone the right to enjoy life events especially in public places is appauling. I pray for Mikey and her family to have peace with this and for the person who wrote the letter to find compassion.

  • My three year old grandson has been diagnosed as developmentally delayed with a few autistic tendicies. I had a great experience when I took him to a local parade. Sometimes noise bothers him and he had a meltdown. I had a bunch of mothers come to my aid, sharing snacks and drinks with him and trying to engage him so he would calm down. I wish more people were like this. These wonderful women turned a negative experience into a positive one and I will always be thankful for their kindness. I hope Mickey’s experience teaches people about empathy and kindness.

  • My immediate response would post the letter at the concession stand next time you and Mikey work. Put you note next to it informing the poster “Hope you plan better next time to eat before you come for a game from now on. The line will be too long to serve you after the response from the community.!!!!!!”