My blog literally exploded this week...literally.
In what one website is calling iPadgate...my blog was linked up and I have had an influx of questions that I want to answer now that I'm a little more...settled....from the anger and hurt.
I came across Marissa's Bunny while looking through some Fragile X blogs just after Ayden's diagnosis. One website mentioned them, and I ended up spending a few hours reading through the blog and about Marissa. I saw the original post about the iPad giveaway, and figured, "Why not?".
Ayden has been using my iPod touch for some time. It is an original 1st Generation iTouch, not even able to update to iOS4 and has no external speakers - but Ayden doesn't know that. He enjoys playing Angry Birds and some other preschool games on it that really help with his fine motor skills, which as readers of my blog know Ayden is far behind in for his age. Since he enjoyed the iTouch so much, I started looking into some of the different programs that essentially turn your iTouch into an AAC Device. Normal AAC Devices normally have a steep price tag of around $8k-$10k, so it would be an acceptable alternative - even with the software for the iTouch running at about $200. Proloque2Go is the software we looked at, and it is exactly what we need, but it's just too small on the iTouch. This is where the iPad would be a huge benefit and the main reason I entered the Marissa's Bunny giveaway. To be certain, it's not something Ayden needs or we would have figured out a way to swing it. However, I cannot deny how much this tool could help him.
I received the email letting us know Ayden was chosen as a winner on Mother's Day evening. I was crying as I read the email, because this was a huge blessing to us. Ayden won something because of who he was, and to have someone else recognize how special he was, it meant something.
I do want to mention here that we never gave any money to Marissa's Bunny or any personal information in my submission that couldn't be easily Google'd or found here on my blog. Even after we were told we were receiving an iPad, no personal information was submitted. In the end, we did give our address and also via a letter of recommendation by Ayden's SLP, the pre-school that he attended last year. Nothing that can cause too much damage. Unfortunately, I did mention the raffle and giveaway here a few times that was collecting money. I haven't had anyone mention to me that they donated, but there is always that possibility. The most I put into this was my time (which, in itself is pretty precious these days) and hope. For other families involved, it wasn't so easy. One family lost their place in therapy and was put at the bottom of a two year waiting list because over and over the iPad didn't arrive. Another mother spoke about her son crying himself to sleep after she told him the iPad was not coming.
Looking back, it's pretty obvious something was going on. I noticed after reading the emails while I was posting them in my earlier post that there were small discrepancies (such as the number of total entrants to the giveaway). Nothing that raised a red flag to me at that time, but live and learn I guess. It was easy to believe because we [the families] wanted to. I don't think I'm alone when I say that....so many of the other 39 families affected felt the same way. We all had hope, and unfortunately it was poorly placed. I know for me, even with all the warning signs at the end I still held out hope that what I was told was true. It is still difficult for me to believe someone with a special needs child, someone that is walking this same road, could treat other families in the manner he did.
I can't say exactly what happened with this whole mess. In the many places this has been discussed, people are ranging from not believing Marissa is even Mike's child, to just that Mike got in over his head. For me, I do believe Mike is Marissa's dad. He's been around the blogging community for a while and has contacts with places such as Bungie, Penny Arcade, Ctrl-Alt-Del....he's very prominent in the "geek" community. His raffles have even been mentioned on HBO. I don't know what happened, and I don't want to speculate, but I do WANT to know. After it was announced the iPads were "no longer there", Mike was very adamant he couldn't say anything for fear of losing his job. Now that he has lost his job, I would think he has nothing to lose by coming forward. Maybe he was a victim as well, I don't know. What I do know, is that despite the circumstances - he was still the one sending the emails. Emails that told us our software was purchased, that our iPads were being packed, that they had even been shipped (and numerous other things). Regardless of anything else, those lies came from him directly and for that I hold him responsible. For lying to me, and for lying to 39 other families. In one of the last emails I received, I was told this:
"...I'll continue marissasbunny, minus fundraising, minus giveaways. We'll find another charity to give the rest of the funds to, which is sad. We are going to deliver the iPads to the still interested, as soon as I can, and as soon as I am allowed. If it takes too long, regretfully, I'm going to dip into Marissa's surgery fund...."
Now, if this was the end of this story, it would be a sad story indeed. But good often rises from the bad and hope can be restored. They are out there....the Kens, Maureens, Darcys, Heathers, Anthonys, and Wendys.... those who have unbelievably giving hearts and do their best to help make situations right, to help make THIS situation right. It's those people who remind me to keep faith in others and that for every bad person out there, there are a few good ones.
Come back tomorrow to learn more about some of what is being done to help the families affected by iPadgate.