A Smile As Big As The Moon: Movie Review And Reflections

hallmark a smile as big as the moon movie

What were your thoughts on this movie?

Tonight ABC aired the Hallmark Hall of Fame movie “A Smile As Big As The Moon.”  The movie is based on a book about a high school special education teacher (Mike Kerjes) who took his class of special education students to Space Camp despite all of the obstacles that stood in their way.  If you didn’t get a chance to catch the movie, you can purchase the film on DVD from Amazon.

A Smile As Big As The Moon: My Thoughts

My wife and I watched A Smile As Big As The Moon tonight, and I must say it was very touching. Mike (the teacher) seemed like such an great guy, and I can’t tell you how many times my wife and I wanted to scream out, “Go Mike!” as we were watching the movie!  I loved how he stood up for the kids, and didn’t let anyone tell them they “couldn’t do it.”  I hope that Noah has teachers like Mike Kerjes when he gets in school.

Being that Noah is only 13 months old I still get a little teary eyed seeing older children with Down syndrome….sometimes.  I’m not really sure why.  I just do.Maybe it’s because I have a hard time thinking about the possibility of kids picking on him one day.  Maybe it’s the thought of someone taking advantage of his innocence one day.  I have a wild imagination, and sometimes I think of things I never want to hear Noah say.  Things like;

“Hey dad this kid at school said he would be my friend if I gave him my iPhone, so I did.  Now he is my friend.”

Please Lord, never let that sentence never come out of Noah’s mouth. 🙂

a smile as big as the moon down syndrome movie

They kids rocked it at Space Camp!

Maybe in the very back of my mind I have this hope that Noah will be the “all star person born with Down syndrome.”  That our son will talk, walk, and play just as typical as a typical kid.  At 13 months old, we almost forget Noah was born with Down syndrome.  Watching movies like this sort of reminds that he does. And it’s ok.  🙂  God’s been in the business of making people for a long time, and He knew just what He was doing when He made Noah.  We live in a good story.  Not a sad one.

If you have a child with Down syndrome, I’m sure you know what I’m trying to say.

I’m not even sure if I’m making any sense.  It’s hard to articulate the emotions that a movie like A Smile As Big As The Moon stirs up within me.  I’m thankful for teachers like Mike Kerjes, and so many others who believe in the potential for kids like my son.  I’m also encouraged after watching this movie for our son.  I know he his capable of doing great things, and I can’t wait to watch the story of his life unfold.  I think God has some pretty important things for this little guy to do. 🙂

I also want to say thanks to Hallmark for investing so much in this movie.  It was shown commercial free where we live (with the exception of a few Hallmark spots) on prime time.  I know that must have cost Hallmark a pretty penny, so thank you Hallmark, as a dad of son born with Down syndrome I really appreciate it.  I’m also putting you on my list of organizations-that-are-helping-to-break-the-false-stereotypes-about-children-born-with-special-needs, right next to Target and Nordstrom, so your in good company.

If you are new here, we started this site to show a daily one minute video about our son who was born with Down syndrome. We hope to give the world an inside look at what life is like raising someone like Noah, and in turn will see that Down syndrome is ok.  We invite you to sign up to have our posts come directly to your inbox, subscribe via RSS, and join us on Facebook…and most of all we ask that you would help us share our story.  We think it’s a story worth sharing.

Did you watch A Smile As Big As The Moon?  If so I’m interested in hearing your thoughts on it. Don’t be afraid to be open and honest. 🙂

Also please take a second to leave a comment letting Hallmark know how much you appreciate them investing in movies like this that help the world see that all people are valuable.

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About Rick Smith

Hi, I'm Noah's Dad and I'm passionate about giving the world a window into our life as we raise our son who was born with Down syndrome. I also enjoy connecting with other families, so let's stay connected.

Comments

  1. Kayla Luckie says:

    I loved this movie. The hardest part about watching it though was the parts where the kids were being teased. This is my biggest fear for my precious Wyatt. I pray we never have to face that.

    • @Kayla,

      I agree. Same here.

      My wife and I talk often about how that is one of the biggest fears we have about the future for Noah. But….I think a lot of that is any parents fear…Down syndrome, or no Down syndrome.

      We don’t want to think about our kids getting picked on, or teased. Our hope is we can build confidence in Noah, and help him to understand where his true value and worth lie. And leave the rest in the Lord’s hands. 🙂

      How old is Wyatt by the way?

      • Mie Potter says:

        One of the things about becoming a parent is that your focus and love is now directed at someone else. The thought of anyone hurting your child no matter what his age makes all the protective emotions kick in. I have two teenage boys who are WASP/Japanese. Their peers can be very cruel in the way that only teenagers can. And they can be cruel in the same way. I try to educate them about empathy and walking in another’s shoes. Just tell Noah you love him, he is a child of God, and let him fly. My boys know that the world is cruel. And they know that they are children of God. God will be there in all the good and bad moments, and so will you.

    • Dr. Barnhart says:

      Noah,
      I was the Director of Space Camp at the time the “Smile as Big as the Moon” children came. We had to struggle to get permission for them to come. As you can see, it turned out beautifully.

      In case you don’t already know, Abby, who played the “tattletale” in the movie is a twin to a Down syndrome sister. They are both wonderful, beautiful people.

      There are many more back stories about this movie. When you come to Space Camp, I will tell you all of them, since I am now the CEO of the US Space and Rocket Center.
      Best,
      Deborah Barnhart

      • Jennifer Netter says:

        I commend you for having been an integral part of this amazing story, as well as the ambition to continue this program for children with such wonderful passion for life! I recently became a mom of a sweet Downs Syndrome angel. Her name is Ruari. My goals so far as her mommy, advocate and chiropractor (besides the constant snuggles and loving doting) is to provide hands on therapies to promote muscle tone, healing energy to bolster immune system intergrity and exercises to encourage proper neurological input to her nervous system. She may have an extra little piece of chromosome 21, but I can help her body function more optimally, thanks epigenetics! I would like to end in saying an enormous Thank You for believing in these amazing individuals and Thank you to Noahs Dad for taking the time to bring daily excerpts for Noahs life into each of our lives! I think the more we strive to bring out the positives in what our angels can offer this society, the more educated the public becomes, and the less likely new moms (and their families) will be initially traumatized by their newborns “special needs”. Love and Snuggles! Jenn

  2. Any tv we watch these days is online, so I’ve got to find a way to get a copy of it. Should have thought to ask someone to DVR it for me!

    But I understand the weird emotions that come with seeing older kids and adults with Down syndrome. When our kids are young, the differences aren’t very noticeable. I mean, there are typical kids who don’t walk at 17 months…no big deal. But the differences seem more apparent as time goes on. Even a difference like naivety and ultimate trust–a good thing, but something that reminds us that our kids aren’t typical.

    But, if it makes you feel any better, I have those thoughts about my firstborn, too. He’s 3 and very precocious. Yet he’ll follow anyone, and doesn’t understand it when an older kid makes fun of him. Those moments give me the same feeling of uneasiness. So maybe it’s just a parent thing.

    • Yah, I think you are right….it’s probably just a parent thing.

      Thanks for sharing with me about your first born, Noah’s our first and only son (at least for now) so we are learning a lot of this as we go. 🙂

  3. melissa lucia says:

    I have the exact same concerns that you have with Noah with my daughter Bella (20 months). Even though I love her to the moon and back (pun intended – haha) I can’t help but worry about the future and how others might see her and/or take advantage of her and the almost certain difficulties she will face in life. Living in the moment with her is easy b/c she is super high functioning and the sweetest child i have ever been around, but thinking about the future can get overwhelming if I let it. Thankfully, like you, I am a Christian and know that God is on our side and that “all things work together for good”. And it’s like the verse above her crib says (which I selected and stenciled before she was born and before I knew she would have DS) – “I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made”. I do and she is!!!!! Thank you for helping educate so many that DS is truly a blessing merely sometimes unfairly disguised as a curse!

    • @Melissa,

      It sounds like you are doing a great job at brining your child up understanding where her worth and value are found, so great job!

      I’m thankful to have so many parents like you to travel this journey with. It will be fun watching each others children grow up. 🙂

  4. What an awesome movie!!! I watched it with my Mom and we laughed and cried!! Nothing is Impossible!!!!!! I just wished that our children could have teachers so dedicated! Peter is in a great school (public school) and last year he had an awesome teacher who has Asbergers! She was amazing with our kids. She got pregnant and they surplused her to another school. The resource teacher he has this year has a lot to be desired but it is because she has to many children of different ages to teach. I thank God for his Paraprofessionals that actually are teaching him with the cirriculum given by the teacher. It killed me when the teenager called him a mongoul!!! I also am scared for the day that someone makes fun of my child. I have already had to say something to an adult in a store who kept staring at Peter and mummbling to her husband. I asked if I could help them and if they had anythig that they needed to ask ask me . We are or should I say our children are going to face. I sometimes sit in my bed and stare at my son while he sleeps, I wonder what the future will bring for him and all of ur children!

  5. I agree this movies was very engouraging that our extra special children can achieve things we could not even imagine. My son is 15 months old and I can not wait to see what he will accomplish as he grows up. Out of all 4 of my children I have to honestly say he has taught me the most and brought the most joy in my life (it could just be that he is not into eveything yet). I am so greatful there are people out there willing to stand up for them.

    • @Melisa,

      Thanks for sharing!

      How old are your other children if you don’t mind me asking. I think of all the hard work it is just to keep up with our one son (Noah) I couldn’t imagine how hard it must be to have four.

      (Although my mother had 4 boys….and we were a handful!)

  6. Dana O'Neal says:

    LOVE the movie!!
    I think you might also be surprised at the responce of other children when Noah gets to school- I work in a public school in kindergarten and we have a down syndrome little girl that spends half of her day with us and she has a huge circle of friends – they all LOVE her!!

    • I completely agree with Dana! I’ve been working in preschool for 12+ years with children with special needs and it is so pure to see the compassion that other children have for their peers. So, allow Noah to make some good friends early on in an integrated program, and those good buddies will be there for him throughout his years. Face it, with his laugh and smile and what seems to be a good disposition (or is that all in the editing, lol)that little boy is bound to have a LOT of friends! Just like the song says…”I get by with a little help fom my friends…”

      • @deanne,

        Nope. No editing. That face is just as bright in person as it is on his videos.

        Thanks for the kind and encouraging words. We hang on tightly to comments like the ones you and Dana made.

        You sound awesome, and I hope Noah ends up with great preschool teachers like you. 🙂

    • @Dana,

      So awesome to hear! Thanks for sharing that. We hope Noah develops some great friendships once he gets into school.

  7. “God’s been in the business of making people for a long time, and He knew just what He was doing when He made Noah.” I love this thought, and I am so glad for Noah that he has parents who recognise this beautiful truth. God didn’t make any mistakes when He created Noah. Noah is exactly as God intended him to be, and God is going to use Noah’s life to make this world a brighter and better place.

    • @Melinda,

      Thanks so much! We are well aware of how skilled God is at what He does. He’s been doing what he does for a long time. 🙂

      We wouldn’t change one chromosome on our little guy!

      Do you have any children?

  8. Great Movie! Loved it! We also have a son with Down Syndrome and get apprehensive about him going to school but we were encouraged by this movie and hope God puts the right people in his life to help keep him innocent and pure…….like the teacher in “A smile as big as the moon”. Thank you Hallmark for making a great family friendly movie!

  9. It was heartbreaking, inspiring then uplifting. I loved it. Not at all sappy. Just what I needed after this past week.

  10. I’m so glad you liked the movie. I just worked as the Craft Service Lead on the stuff shot in Alabama, but it was such a pleasure to see that they hired actors to play the special needs kids that actually did have special needs, and those that didn’t, played their characters with respect and didn’t refer to stereotypes. They all did such a great job being ambassadors for those with special needs and showed that they could blow up the big screen/small screen just as well as, if not more so, than anybody else!

    • Wow so cool to hear from you! So do you live in Alabama?

      I saw your website and it looks like you’ve done some really great stuff. What do you hope to do long term?

      Also what scenes where actually shot in Alabama?

      Thanks for leaving your comment! 🙂

      • Yep, I’m originally from AL, but I’ve been in Richmond, VA for the past few years for school. Long term, I would love to be a Casting Director or 1st Assistant Director, but really I just go where the jobs are, haha!

        Pretty much everything that was at the Space and Rocket Center was actually shot there, with the exception of the scene where the character Lewis breaks down while designing the flight patch. All the school stuff, burger shop stuff, Ben’s house, football shots, and pretty much everything in the first half of the film was filmed in Wilmington, NC.

  11. Yesi Preece says:

    Loved it and cried i don’t have a kid with down syndrome but i do have two kids with autism and in a day when i was feeling a little less than this movie lifted me up and brought some hope.

  12. I totally get what you were saying. I think the same thing with my daughter being only six months, that she will the all star; and I worry about the same things, too. Thanks for the movie suggestion.

    As far as the teasing from other kids, I have always worried about that for my other children too because I was teased in school so I know what it feels like. My children haven’t had to deal with this too much because we are a homeschooling family. I’m really glad because it can really pull kids, any kids, down and be a hard thing to get over. I think it’s much easier when you are older and stronger in who you are to deal with teasing than when you are very young. I will homeschool Samantha as well. I’ve been doing it for 19 years now. We have a huge network of friends and a large support group. I am also in touch with some other families who have homeschooled their children with down syndrome.

  13. I too am from AL. I actually work at the Space Flight center. ( not space and rocket center ) I tried very hard to watch this entire movie but I fell asleep. ( Hey! Im a new momma its ok! 11wks tomorrow!) However, what I saw was very heartwarming. I wish I had been able to stay awake. I did see where my husband posted on facebook that it was ” probably his new favorite movie ” I cant wait for a rerun.

    I too have that same feeling Rick. Its one thats hard to describe but very powerful.
    P.s. We have surgery today . Prayers needed and appreciated! Thanks!!

  14. We waited all day for this movie, and we let the little ones stay up to watch too. My 8 year old son was glued to the TV, he was tired but just didn’t want to leave. He’s 8 and he “get’s it”, and I love that!!!

    My older kids didn’t blink either. We laughed at things that i wondered, if others were laughing at. Or if there were moments in this movie that you just had to have a child with special needs child to see the humor, that at times wasn’t really humor, but beauty.

    it was the best movies ever!! at least in a very long time! it portrayed our kids with respect and dignity and intelligence!!!!!
    Best line from the movie

    “No, He’s American”

    LOVED IT!!!

  15. i taped it and can’t wait to watch it. You know, Rick, when Liam was little (he is 10 now) i felt the EXACT same way you do now. I thought maybe Liam was going to develop like a typical kid (at least more than any other kid with DS) and that he would be the most advanced, smartest kids with DS in the world. You know what? I used to have the hardest time meeting anyone with DS who was over the age of 5. It just used to make me sad and I couldn’t understand Why. I can tell you that now that Liam is 10, I am so proud of him and like I always say, he is more Dennehy than Down syndrome. Down syndrome is just a part of who he is, he isn’t WHO he is and I love every little piece of him. I thank God for him every day. I feel unworthy of this gift. 🙂

  16. As a parent of three “typical” kids, I thought the movie was wonderful! It was a great teachable moment for my children, who felt so deeply for the students when they were being teased and felt so good when they were treated well. It was a great chance to say “Wow, do you know many kids with issues like these? How do the kids treat them? Would you be the one to step in and defend them?” Funny thing is that my sixteen year old said that he has never witnessed the special kids being teased. He said that the school has made their “specialness” such a “normal” thing, that they are not thought of as strange. He says that the “normal” kids are the ones that have to watch out for teasing. My younger two (13 and 10) were really impacted by the film. I think Hallmark did a great job (except for the over-the-top Southern accents! Being from Alabama myself, it was a bit hard to take! :D)

  17. There was a book called Differences in Common written by a mom of an adult with DS that I read in 1991 when Becky was still a toddler (now she is 22). One of the short stories was called “Why Me?”. At the time, I was a therapy fanatic… if they did it at therapy, we recreated it at home… if you came into my house, you would think it was a torture chamber! The story contrasted mild, moderate and severe DS. I read “Why Me?” and thought oh no, I don’t want her to feel that way. I realized that she would never be completely normal no matter what I did and if she was mild, she would know it and be hurt.
    Well, Becky is mild, not necessarily because of her psycho mom, but because that is how God made her. The type A personality gene was passed to her. She doesn’t necessarily say “Why Me?” and she rarely asks “Can I”… but she will come to the level I expect out of her.
    It amazes me to watch her continue to grow into her 20s. If our kids continue to be stimulated, they continue to grow. The biggest challenge that I see is keeping her engaged in life past high school.
    High Schools across the country are doing a great job of integrating our kids into the school and pushing the barriers like this movie portrayed. Keeping up that level of advocacy for our adults is harder.
    I happen to be visiting at Down Home Ranch in Austin, TX where this challenge is being met daily.
    As I have said before, my child is in the first generation to have developmental therapy since birth. This will not make them “normal”, but it is an exciting generation to watch now that they are adults. We must not let them down!

  18. I was able to catch the last hour of the movie and what I saw was really enjoyable and inspiring. I was born 3 and 1/3 months premature and I have learning disabilities. I have had lots of excellent teachers like Mike in the movie who have helped me overcome many obstacles. Thanks Hallmark for airing a great movie about all of us special people and how we are just like everyone else!

  19. My smile was as big as the moon and my tears fell as I watched the movie. It was hard to watch the continual harassment from the typical kids and hard to watch the kids in the special ed classroom pick on each other. At the same time I was thrilled with the accomplishments of those wonderful kids and their heroic teacher. We are parents of 5 . Our older 2 are grown and our younger 3 have special needs. We ‘ve chosen to home school . It ‘s not a perfect solution but we did not want to put our children in school when they not able to tell us how their day at school had gone.
    When our children were first born I could only think of who they would not be, but our Lord is soo good and slowly opened my eyes to the treasures He had entrusted us with. I have been blessed.

  20. Rick, you worry too much. I also have a little boy named Noah with Down syndrome. He is about 6mo older than your guy. You forget, our Noahs are made out of better stuff than us. A bully will have a far greater impact on your day as compared to his.

    • @Taylor

      I like you!!! 🙂

      Thanks for those kind words. and I just checked out your site, your children are adorable!!

      Are you friends with us on Facebook? Be sure to post a picture of your family there if you’d like —-> http://facebook.com/noahsdadcom

      Please keep sharing your journey with us, it sounds like you guys have a ton of fun.

      How old are your children by the way?

  21. Jennie Brown says:

    Great movie. The snarky comment about the “short bus” amused me, however. The bus is a source of joy and happiness for Suzanne. They changed her route this year so that she is the last to be picked up instead of the first. When she gets on she High 5’s and says hello to all the kids and they have to have a “Suzanne” schedule because everyone wants to sit with her. She has a different seat with a different kid every day! There are kids at the regular bus stop who ride the big bus who have asked that she ride with them, too. Suzanne doesn’t need social networking–she has the bus!

  22. My fiance and I stayed up to watch the movie. Seeing what the kids went through brought back some painful memories for me cause I was in special ed classes I have deslexia. Our classes where just like the ones in the movie. I was always teased, picked on and beat up. We are now raising a sweetpea lemon drop little girl who is 4yrs old with downs. She is the apple of our eyes. I too am afraid what she will go thru when she gets into school cause of my experiences. She is in a great day care with kids that don’t see her as a special needs, they see her as little sister that needs teaching in a different way. She has made us the happiest people. I wouldn’t change anything. God brought her to us and I will take that.

  23. Jen Carson says:

    Hi, Rick. I just read your post about the movie, and you brought tears to my eyes. You just articulated exactly how I feel when I see older children with Ds. My son, Tyler, is 15 months old (DOB 10/15/10) and his story is so similar to your Noah’s. He’s a little behind (not walking and not crawling…more because he doesn’t want to than he can’t), but for the most part, I forget in the day-to-day that he has Ds. He’s just my Tyler, the heart of our family (we have two older boys..Jake (11) and Joey (8)), and the sweetest little person. Then, I see someone with Ds out in the community, and I’m reminded and left wondering if that’s how Ty will be? It’s hard to imagine his future, and I do have worries that he’ll be treated differently or made fun of. But I know that he’ll be fine because he has the love and support of his entire extended family…a rock solid foundation. I think your blog and movies like this one will go a long way to raising awareness. So, thank you for doing what you do. I’m a huge fan!
    Jen

    • Thanks Jen!

      I know just how you feel, and I totally agree. I am so excited about the future for our children because of the deep support network they have.

      One of the best parts about this website is being able to connect with so many families who have children with Down syndrome that are
      around the same age as Noah. It will be a lot of fun being on this journey together as our kids grow up!

      Thanks so much for all of your encouragement and support. 🙂

  24. I loved this movie!! I have a 9 year old son with Down syndrome. I can relate so well to the concerns that you, and many of the other parents here, expressed. When Sean was little, it was sometimes difficult to see older kids and adults with Down syndrome. I wanted a rockstar…and I got one, just differently than I imagined. One of the most difficult periods I faced was as he got older and friends who had kids with DS began passing him in milestones – speech, reading, potty training. It seemed every where we turned, other kids were being fully included in gen ed classes, but that was not the best placement for him. And as I dealt with that, my eyes were opened to the amazing abilities he has that cannot be measured in school. He is a social butterfly. He can run far and fast – gold in area games for Special Olympics – and does it with a smile on his face. He charms so many who meet him. He has compassion beyond any I have seen – if his sister is upset or crying, he sits near her until her ‘sad is all gone.’ He has taught his sister, our niece & nephew, his aunts, and friends that people with disabilities “have every right to be here” (a quote from his sister at age 10). We are fortunate to have a wonderful support group where we live, an amazing private school that is the perfect fit, and the ability to see God’s love through him. Thank you so much for this forum, and the powerful message you are giving to the world.

  25. Dana McDowell says:

    I loved it too! , <3 It warmed my heart. <3 My daughter doesn't have Down Syndrome but she does have special needs due to Cri-Du-Chat. She is 28 and I have been in your shoes. I can say… don't worry so much about the future but just live day by day. We can assume we know what the futre holds but we don't. Your little ones have wonderful opportunities ahead of them! The lives they will change will be amazing!!

  26. I thought the movie was great too. Didn’t romanticize things or come across as too syrupy, but rather made genuine, important points about how every person/child has unique talents and should be recognized for such. Beyond the inspiring and heart-warming moments (which were wonderful), watching this movie reminded of how hilarious kids with special needs can be. I’m a child psychologist and work with kids with lots of different things going on (from developmental disabilities to emotional difficulties to learning challenges), and I tell ya, sometimes the things they say are so honest and hilarious at the same time that you can’t help but smile! Very good movie. 🙂

  27. Sylvia J Bennett says:

    I unfortunately missed it ! I would like to tell you that Noah will never get teased or taken advantage of , however that would be untrue . I can however tell you about when Cathy was about 12 friends of ours coached a Tee Ball team and asked if I wanted Cathy to join, that although she was older they were sure she would be welcomed in the game. Well She absolutely LOVED it , however there were a few children that were terribly cruel to her asking her why she looked so funny , asking her to make funny faces just so they could laugh and pick. IT was extremely difficult for me to witness and after much contemplation and talking with her coaches We decided this ::::: Due to the fact that Cathy was having a blast and very proud of herself , and honestly did not know that they were making fun of her ( she thought they were playing with her), I opted to sit in my car at the games so that I could not hear what was being said and the coaches promised to do the best they could (short of laying hands on the bullies) to keep the picking at a minimum. It was a very difficult thing for me to do But Cathy truly was having the time of her life and believed them all to be her friends. By seasons end the taunting had dwindled and I was even able to sit on the bleachers for the last few games without crying for what was being said to and about my lil girl. I Have always tried to see things through her eyes and put my own feelings aside , If she is truly happy in a situation who am I to interfere because my feelings are hurt. Of course there have been times when she herself was made to feel bad but they have been very few . She truly has an unconditional love for all people and very tuff skin, her feelings don’t get hurt near as often as her Mama’s do .

    • Jeez, I had a hard time even reading this post! Where the heck were the parents of these bullies! I could never have handled that. I just don’t understand how that is EVER okay. Why wasn’t another adult stopping them?

  28. I remember feeling that way, Rick, in those early days and I think any of us who has a little one with Down syndrome totally gets it. But now, nearly 3 years into this blessed journey, I have learned to take my precious Ian’s hands and follow him… not the other way around. And now when I see older teens or adults with DS, I beam and just love seeing them out and living their life and I hope that others will feel that way when they see my Ian as a young man. The craziest part of those early days when I would get sad at seeing older teens or adults with DS is that I was simply seeing a diagnosis, not a person. When Ian becomes a teenager or young adult, he will be IAN — not a teenager with DS. I hope that makes sense…

    My son has touched more people in his life than I have in my 35 years. He stands as a testament to LIFE and I am proud to share my son with the world. I remember one day my mom telling me it was a privilege to raise Ian. And it is — a privilege. Every step of this journey, I see my son. I see him amazing me, loving me, showing me a life I should have always had. I see Ian. And it IS such a privilege to raise him. I get to live a life where every single thing my kid does is remarkable. Every. Single. Thing. First word (“up”), letters, colors, two words together (“up, mama” :), three words together (“I all done”), calling his brother Joey “o-ee” with a big grin. He is so proud of himself and we are so proud of him. I am so grateful for this gift from God above that makes me want to shout to the world — my son is who everyone should be! Thank you for sharing the beauty of our kids with the world! 🙂

  29. I loved the movie. It is a perfect illustration of the reasons I fought to have Cate included in a typical kindergarten class. Children don’t learn what you don’t teach them. This teacher taught his kids about the principles involved in going to space camp. Did it take longer than for typical child? Yep a lot longer probably. Did they gain more from the experience? My guess is absolutely. He taught them to work together and to be confident in addition to the academics – unfortunately not every special needs teacher realized these lessons need to be taught. I know with Cate if you expect her to learn 5 sight words, she’ll learn 5 sight words. But if you challenge her to know all 50 kindergarten standard words, she learns almost all of them (we are at 20 already!) but it might take her all year. I did cringe a little at the taunting but then I was happy to know in reality it took place in 1989. I’ll let myself be naive and believe that by the time Cate gets to High School more kids will have had good experiences with special needs kids in their classrooms and there will be less of all that.

  30. Cami Patterson says:

    I absolutely loved A Smile As Big As The Moon!! It was so incredibly inspiring for me! I am not a parent but I spend most of my free time working with kids that have special needs at my church and my camp. I am still in college and plan to teach kids with special needs and someday move to Ukraine or Russia to work in an orphanage. So this movie was so inspiring to me, it was a reminder to never ever give up on these kids. I am so grateful to Hallmark for making this movie and showing the rest of the world how amazing and capable kids with special needs are!

  31. Kimberly Hutchinson says:

    I really enjoyed the movie and the great portrayal of the remarkable capabilities of these kids. I too worry about how my sweet Michael will be treated some day. I was bullied for being six feet tall in sixth grade. I hope that with the continued education, positive portrayals of special needs individuals and campaigns against bullying, that our children will grow up in a world of acceptance and inclusion.

  32. Looking forward to seeing this! Thank you for the blessing that you, your lovely wife and Noah are for so many!

    • Thank you, we really appreciate the kind words. I saw that Hallmark is rearing this weekend. Be sure to come back and let us know what you thought after you see it. 🙂

  33. My husband and I watched the movie and we both tried to envision the day when our grandson and our granddaughter that age. They are both so little – it’s hard to imagine! I was so proud of those kids, and it broke my heart when they were being teased. I was trying to remember that Mike said to Stephanie after the food fight in cooking class. I pray we never have to say those words to Patrick or Caitlin, but best to have a response.
    I feel proud of my grandkids every day for all the accomplishments they make. I was just as proud of those kids in the movie! I was wondering how of the actors were really special needs as well. Hats off to them too! Thanks Hallmark!

  34. Just wondering if your state offers a birth to three class. It sure helped us out a lot with sweetpea. We used the excersise ball to help with her muscles building. She has so many therapist to help. She started walking. Started talking and signing.we are in process of potty training.

  35. Arlyn Alfaro says:

    Hi Rick, I haven´t seen the movie yet but I would like to share with you my feelings toward your comment above. The feelings you have makes lots of sense. I have added Noah to my favorite DS babies since I am mother of a wonderful 5 months old one named Felipe. So I get very excited to here and see how enthusiastic you are with Noah. I totally identify with you. So, I was reading to my husband your comment on the movie and as I read my voice started breaking and tears stopped me from finishing reading to him: you were describing some of the thoughts and feelings I deal with everyday. It really touched me. I have a 3 years old girl named Jimena, who a regular child. I am totally bananas for her and she makes us very proud, but Felipe is different: he is admirable. He works so hard to accomplish all those simple things you take for granted with a regular child. So, to summ it up: I couldn´t be prouder of having a child with DS, I know God made him with love, vision and purpose, I know for sure that additional chromosome means: more love, more capability to conquer the hearts of people, more breathtaking smiles, more deep stares into my eyes and others, more unforgetable simple moments, more admiration…even more butts ( Felipe has more butt that anyone else in the family!!!) Its the best assignment I ever had and it has been given to us by the Almighty God! However, on the other hand, I didn´t want Felipe ( or any child) to deal with DS, its stereotypes, its barriers. (I didn´t want him to have even a bogey in his nose!!) That makes me cry sometimes. So, Noah and many other courageous DS children are changing the world for my Felipe and other babies to be born with DS. Noah and your family are ALREADY doing great things. Thanks and the Lord bless Noah, you and your wonderful family.

  36. I haven’t seen the movie yet, but it is on my list of must watches. My 14 month old son doesn’t have a disability, but I support adults with disabilities for work. I heard about your blog from a co-worker that posted your message about Target on our internal agency page to share with everyone that works there. I have to tell you that parents like you, that advocate for and support their child are a wonderful commodity and the absolute best to work with. Noah and the teams of people you will work with throughout his life are so lucky to have you and your wife as his parents.

  37. I didn’t have an opportunity to view the movie the other night but I do appreciate Hallmark for making it! I hope to see it soon. I did read the book a few years ago and it was really very touching. I am definitely going to re-read it soon! I am a special education teacher and have a 13 month old daughter with DS (she is just a few days older than Noah) :). She is absolutely perfect! I will post a picture on facebook today so you can meet her :). I feel the same way as so many parents do about changing the perception of DS and protecting our children from teasing and bullying.
    I think that the work you are doing from your website and getting media attention is so important. I want DS to be seen in only a positive light. I had my own run-in with indirect teasing about DS at school the other day during a mitosis lesson. I couldn’t help but think about how I need to create or find an appropriate lesson for biology that doesn’t just address the genetic aspects of a trisomy but also the personal aspects as well. I never want my daughter to hear the words or comments that I had to listen to the other day.
    Thank you for all of your work spreading the positive message!

  38. This story took place in 1989, when my son was enrolled in a mainstream kindergarten class – a pioneer of inclusion who only needed opportunity and a bit of support to show us his true potential. I am much more hopeful that Noah and other children growing up today will find even more opportunities, friendship and acceptance than my son and those who followed him enjoyed.
    We should acknowledge the amazing mainstream friends our sons and daughters find who benefit as much from having a friend with Down syndrome as our kids benefit from having them as buddies, tutors, defenders, playmates, and a little later on, customers or coworkers.
    Many of my closest friends today are parents of my son’s mainstream classmates – heaven forbid someone make a questionable remark around them. And my son is quick to make his feelings known – we were talking about movies at a party a few weeks ago and he said “I don’t like the r-word or the n-word. So I just don’t go to movies that have hate language in them.”
    His remark was just part of the conversation, no big deal to anyone but me.
    This wonderful blog and the Smile book and movie help raise awareness and support for all our families. I am so thankful for both!

    The book and maybe the DVD should be available at your public library, local bookstore, and online. To celebrate World Down Syndrome Day on March 21 (3-21) we could request our local library stock a good title about Down syndrome, or donate one. I used to put up displays about Down syndrome in the entryway display case at our local library for October – they took reservations months in advance and the year I forgot to make a request they called on October 2nd to say no one showed up to fill it – could I put one together on Down syndrome again?
    You know I could! LOL.
    We have come a long way since display cases and photocopies! But ‘old school’ opportunities continue to make a difference – especially for families of newly diagnosed babies who see a poster about Down syndrome in a familiar place. My favorites were the Tidewater posters “Friends Don’t Count Chromosomes” that we offered around town. They stayed up year round most places.
    Don’t forget church libraries and meeting rooms. Raising awareness is year-round, life-long – in small ways and of course in quite grand ways, like this blog.
    🙂
    Life is good!

    A Smile as Big as the Moon – Books and DVDs available everywhere!
    http://tinyurl.com/7r6jk5o

  39. Thank you for posting this Blog!!! I have worked at Space Camp for over 12 years. I worked in the group reservation department and got to see and get to know Mike Kersjes on a regular basis. He is so great. He has done so many things to further Space Camp for Special Needs children. The movie didn’t tell you this but Mike continued to bring over 3000 special needs children to Space Camp after 1989. He is retired now and we are all very proud of him here at Space Camp for the insurmountable things he has accomplished. It took a lot of work and determination as a teacher but also it took the desire and dedication of his students also. Without their participation and willingness to “Shoot for the Stars” then well we might not be as far as we are today!!! So thank you to all that have endeavored to go above and beyond and to all who sometimes have to be the BULL in the CHINA shop!!! Our calls have increased exponentially here at Space Camp since the movie aired. The movie can be purchased now in Hallmark stores and it will be airing again on the Hallmark channel this coming Saturday at 4 p.m. and 6 p.m. Central and also this coming Sunday at 1 p.m. First weekend of FEB. 2012. Thank you for all the great and wonderful comments!!! My boss shared this web site with so many this morning here at Space Camp and I think what you are doing with your son Noah is truly inspirational and I know it will and has inspired so many! Hopefully you all will be able to buy the movie “A Smile as Big as the Moon” and keep it as a treasured favorite movie in your home to cherish and draw on for inspiration when you most need it. Thanks be to God!!!

  40. As a future elementary school teacher, I loved watching A Smile As Big As the Moon. I thought it was a great example of how every kid can do something when they set their mind to it; regardless of what the stereotype might be. I think this film will help people who don’t know or understand individuals with special needs gain a better knowledge on the topic. It encourages people to think that even though people may be different, it doesn’t mean it’s wrong or sad. The students in Mike’s class did everything expected of them at Space Camp, and exceeded every preconceived expectation that was put upon them.
    Your blog is great! I hope you continue to advocate, bring awareness and acceptance of others, regardless of any diagnosis that is put upon them.

  41. I don’t have a special needs person in my life. But I have worked with some. I directed the movie. By far the most important thing I got out of the picture was summed up by Mike’s line: I started teaching kids with learning disabilities in 1978.By this point — 1988 — I’d learned a few things. One was not to treat them as ‘special’. You misbehave, you pay the price. Like any ‘other’ kid.” I was struck by the pure logic of it and found the philosophy liberating for me and the actors. Those individuals, challenged or not, who seemed to have been indulged much of their lives behaved self-indulgently — and disrespectfully towards those who had indulged them. No surprise there.

    Casting special needs actors probably helped the other actors bring the honesty and respect to their roles that you saw. We all — especially the cast and the real Mike Kersjes — truly became, for six short weeks, one loving family.

    • By the way, I am touched by everyone’s reaction here — and elsewhere — to the film. The response we’ve had has been so rewarding and inspirational that I think I now have the answer to the question I am often asked: Of all the films you’ve directed, which is your favorite? Movies are like your children. You love them all differently. But this one — this one is — no pun intended — special.

  42. Leslie Stetler says:

    This story shows how the courage and determination of just one person can change the lives of so many! I only wish my son’s teacher was as dedicated. What a wonderful opportunity NASA has created for our children! Maybe someday my son and family will make it there 🙂 Keep up the great work on your site Rick! !

    • I agree with on the movie. I also help Noah meets teachers like the one in the movie.

      And….I also want Noah to be able to go to Space Camp one day. 🙂

      Thanks for the kind words about the site. It’s so much fun getting to meet all the great families through this site / Facebook page. 🙂

  43. Donna Kondas-Braemer says:

    I went thru half of a box of tissues & I’m still wiping my tears away. I love John Corbett but in this movie he was amazing. Those kids were amazing. This movie will make you laugh, cry, cheer & it will get you mad then it will make you laugh, cry & cheer again. I’ve always known that kids & adults with disabilities or that were challenged in some way are just as smart & can do just as well as other people. I think that everyone should watch this movie. I also think that every child should HAVE to watch this movie make it something that they have to do in like a auditorium for all grades to watch like we used to do back in grammar school or make it a requirement in one of the classes like the health class and be graded on it-this will teach other students on how to behave & how to treat other students that are “special”. I am going to send this on to my niece & my sister in law who are both special education teachers & see if they can show this to their students. I think that’s a good place to start. Thanks to Rick Smith for bringing this movie to my attention-I will defiantly be watching this movie the next time it’s on again & I will defiantly be “sharing” it with everyone I know.

  44. Just saw the movie tonight and I can not think of anything else to say but wow

  45. Loved it! As a special ed teacher, kids with DS have my heart. I understand your fears, but most of the time other kids love them. I have had peer mentors work with my students and go to activities with “regular” ed. My kids are part of the 5k program next week and will be center stage singing The Rainbow Song from Signing Time. I quickly put a stop to any picking on my kids by others, try to use it to teach them that they are just like them. They like to watch the same tv shows, games, sports, etc. They just need a little extra help or time learning things. My kids are in the “moderate” range, but I am always amazed at their accomplishments…may it be reading, learning to potty, using words or signs to communicate, to being able to stand next to their “typical” peers and sing.
    I think I have a harder time with other adults! I have taken students to different activities with my own children outside of school and sometimes, I have gotten rather frustrated at other parents. All in all, though 99% of the time things are good…but having “normal” kids of my own, unfortunately they all face some type of bullying, etc. I teach my students how to stand up for themselves and they do. The funny thing is they pick on each other the most! Having 8 boys (not sure how that happened this year!) they know how to get on each others nerves. They are like brothers, but they are learning from it! I am rambling, should be asleep!

  46. Michele Arnold says:

    I LOVED the movie! My 8 yr old watched it with me and asked a lot of questions. He too has some issues that were in the movie. It was nice that he was able to see himself and his little brother with DS in the movie. Wonderful teaching moment! Thank you Hallmark!

  47. Enjoyed the movie, but was somewhat puzzled at the same time. I have been a special education teacher for 26 years, and have not seen a mixture of students such as the ones portrayed in the movie, in a self contained special education class. Today, most of those students would be in general education classes with support depending on their disability.
    I applaud the teacher for going the extra mile with his students. Looks like he paved the way for many other students with special needs.
    Thanks Noah’s Dad, for being such a positive role model for parents of any child with special needs. I admire your determination for getting the word out there, in so many ways. I work with many wonderful parents who can feel so overwhelmed at times, that reaching out to others is really difficult. I hope that you will persist when Noah is school age and beyond.

  48. Tracy Maxwell Adamson says:

    The movie made me cry tears of sadness, tears of joy and it gave me hope. I also hope that many special ed teachers watched and I hope my son Matthew (who has Downs) gets great teachers like Mike.

  49. I’m the mother to two children and both have Down Syndrome (ages 4 and 5). They keep me pretty busy but we were able to watch the movie. This movie was great in so many ways. I have to agree with Stephanie who said I wonder if other families laughed at lines that we did. “No, He’s American” was also my favorite line in the movie! I have seen my kids grow so much from birth to now and the amount of “true” friends they have at school and day care is just amazing. I hope there are more “Space Camps” and more movies like “A Smile as Big as the Moon”. I feel as parents we can advocate all we want but it comes out louder and clearer when people see others advocating for our children. Thankyou to Space Camp, Hallmark, and to Rick….I follow Noah’s Blog regularly and want to make commments but just don’t always have the extra time to comment. 🙂

  50. Wow, this is so cool to read all of the responses. I missed the last hour of the movie last night because I had to take my 9 month old PJ (with DS) to the hospital for croup. How cool that the director of Space Camp is writing on this blog Rick!!!
    For quite a while whenever I saw an older child with Down syndrome I also got very sad. You’re right, it’s very easy to forget our baby isn’t “typical” when he acts just like any other baby. I’m grateful that PJ has four older brothers to stick up for him, but they won’t be able to hold his hand everyday in school. For some reason, watching this movie last night though was inspiring instead of making me teary. I was entranced by the boy with Down Syndrome and just loved him!!! I promised PJ that I would get him to Space Camp one day, maybe he and Noah can go together!!!!

  51. Our family really enjoyed the movie. One of my twin daughters (typical) is hoping to go. After watching she is excited to know that her little brother will be able to go as well..in fact she has plans to drive him there when he is old enough 😉 And I think I may be getting a DVD of it for Valentine’s day!

  52. Karen Spinelli says:

    Hi!
    My son Luke is 22 years old and has Down Syndrome. He auditioned for the part of Ben on “A Smile As Big As The Moon”. We were bummed he didn’t get it! Loving your blog, just found it! Noah reminds me a lot of Luke as a baby.
    Please know that all your hard work pays off!

    I think you would enjoy seeing Luke’s “senior project”. A 10 minute video “Luke’s Journey Towards Independence”. It is on Luke’s website…
    http://www.lukespinelli.com

    All the best!
    Karen Spinelli

  53. I’ve subscribed to Noahs Dad recently and am so in love with this little angel.  I saw that NASA has sent a space suit for him–so awesome. 
    The movie was on TV recently and my family absolutely loved it.  What a beautiful story and I love how hard this teacher fought for his kids. 
    Thank you for this beautiful movie.  Thank you Noah for your beautiful smile and thanks to your dad for sharing you with us.  xoxox

  54. The boy with tourrets reminded me of a friend. He had a twitch with his leg and any time he twitched, I giggled… I couldn’t help it… I thought it was cute… I couldn’t help but giggle at the boy with tourrets!!! He was quite attractive as well…

  55. Thanks for your honesty about the diverse thoughts and emotions you feel thinking about Noah now and in the future.  Our little girl is 6 months behind Noah and I find that if I think too far into the future, I freak out and forget that God is in control both now and in the future.  Your blog and your family is such an encouragment!

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