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.
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.
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.
“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.