Everyone who has seen Finding Kind is struck very hard by one specific interview. Almost three years ago, while shooting Finding Kind, we were lucky enough to meet Lori Hazen. We bumped into Lori while we were spending some time in Walla Walla, Washington. I remember the moment so well... we had just finished marching through town with our tricked-out Kind Campaign mini-van. Right before we were about to head to the local park to conduct some interviews, a beautiful girl with a pink bandana wrapped in her hair cautiously approached the window and asked what we were up too. We let her know she was welcome to meet us in the park if she wanted to share anything on camera about her experiences with bullying. We had no idea in that moment that that girl would play such a huge role in our film and in our lives. After setting up our cameras and getting settled in, Lori approached our us with her two adorable little kids being wheeled in a wagon behind her. She sat down, got comfortable and over the next hour, shared one of the most heart-breaking testimonies we have ever heard.
Throughout the next hour, Lori courageously shared her experience with bullying and social pressures at school, but more importantly, shared with us the depths of her often-brutal life experience and the tough hand she was dealt. I remember sitting at that bench, taking in her whole story, thinking... 'she doesn't deserve this...no one deserves this.' I was in tears... never in my life had I heard of such a series of traumatic events in one persons life... accounts of abuse, neglect, violence, severe cruelty... We were so grateful for her willingness to share her story on camera, because it inspired a very important chapter in the film and various lessons within all of our assemblies: You NEVER know what someone is going through and the things they go home to when they walk through their front door... how crucial it is to put ourselves in other people's shoes... not to judge until you have heard someone's story. After finishing the interview I remember feeling guilty walking away from her... knowing the hardships she faces. Well, life has a funny way of working itself out sometimes, and it brought Lori back to us three years later for what will become a life changing experience for her and everyone involved.
A couple months ago, we were touring around the greater Seattle area with the film and assembly program. We had about 15 events that week and we came home exhausted. After finishing up some lunch, we received an email from a woman named Diana who was, like thousands of other people, immensely touched by Lori's story in the documentary. At one point during Lori's interview, Lori talked about her insecurity with her teeth and how that insecurity deeply affects her life experience and confidence. She shared how badly she wished she could have them fixed but that costs would indefinitely prevent her from doing so. Diana, like Lori, was deeply insecure about her teeth growing up and shared in her email about a specific bullying experience related to her teeth. That experience changed Diana's life.
After watching the documentary, Diana made a decision to pay it forward and change Lori's life. In her email she expressed to us that she is going to sponsor Lori (a complete stranger to Diana) to get the dental and orthodontic work done to make her teeth perfect. Diana let us know that she wanted something good to happen to Lori... for Lori to know that there are people in the world who love her and are inspired by her courageous testimony. We were in tears, reading this email from Diana, realizing the magnitude of her gracious offer. Immediately our wheels started turning (they tend to do that), and we thought about all of the possibilities. First we called Lori to tell her. She was speechless. She couldn't understand how a complete stranger would have the heart to do something like this for her... again, knowing Lori's life story, it isn't surprising that a random act of kindness like this would seem almost implausible.
At our next screening, we let the audience know what was happening, about our desire to find a dentist and orthodontist in Southern California who would donate their time and money to what will be a very long and complex ortho case. We let the audience know about our desire to fly Lori to California and make this the most amazing experience possible. Immediately following the screening, a kind woman named Michele from the Hilton Hotel in Downtown Long Beach let us know that Hilton would love to host Lori for free when she comes to California. We were so excited to see other people excited to be a part of changing Lori's life. Over the next couple months we began communicating with Dr. Jim Kahal, an amazing dentist in Orange County who has donated a ton of time helping advise us through this process. After locking down some details, we made the travel arrangements and locked in an appointment with Dr. Kahal. It has been so rewarding to see how anxious and excited Lori has been for today to come.
Fast foward to this morning, March 26th, 2012 when the two of us picked Lori up from the Orange County airport to bring her to her first dental consultation. We were so excited to see Lori and the smile on her face. Today was her first time to California and her second time seeing the ocean.
Dr. Kahal saw Lori this afternoon, free of charge and worked on her teeth to get her ready for her orthodontist appointment tomorrow with Dr. Robert Meister. Throughout the rest of this week, we will be taking Lori to her dental appointments to begin what will be a long but exciting journey ahead. Making Lori's dream come true is going to require more flights from her home in North Platte, Nebraska back to LA, and we are hoping to make this an amazing experience for her by bringing her and her kids to Disneyland for their first time! Expenses include food, gas, travel and although Diana is donating an extremely generous amount of money for the dental and ortho work, we would love to be able to offer more funds to these generous doctors so we can ensure the best plan and results for Lori.
EVERY dollar will help so if you feel compelled to help change Lori's life, please make a donation in her name by clicking this link: CHANGE LORI'S LIFE Every cent of your donation will go towards Lori.
This is just the beginning and we know there will be a lot more ahead to make this happen for Lori. We feel so blessed to be a part of Lori's life and a part of this experience. Thank you again to Michelle from Hilton, Dr. Kahal, Dr. Meister and most of all Diana, who is such an inspiration to all of us, reminding us that a kind act, big or small, can change a life.
We will be updating through The Daily Kind to let you all know about her progress and will keep you informed every step of the way. Have a wonderful week and remember: BE KIND for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.
Lauren Parsekian & Molly Thompson