HARTFORD — Hartford Elementary School welcomed a special guest Tuesday, Oct. 14, who brought a strong message to students, staff and the community.
That message was to have empathy, show strength, display courage, offer kindness and practice forgiveness. The special guest couldn’t talk for himself, but his story spoke volumes — don’t give up five minutes before the miracle happens. Marshall “the miracle dog” shared his personal story of survival with local students with the help of his “Mom,” Cyndi Willenbrock.
“Marshall was so gentle with the kids and Cyndi showed how much she cared and her passion,” Hartford Elementary Principal Heather Johnson said. “We were all so awestruck by her and Marshall. She read the book she wrote to the students and would ask them questions. They really absorbed what she had to say and to see Marshall in person and see his loving nature; it was all really good for the kids.”
Willenbrock adopted Marshall from the Humane Society of Missouri after he and 60 other animals were rescued from an animal hoarder four years ago. Marshall was the most extreme case of abuse and cruelty the Humane Society had ever seen and his will to live earned him the nickname “the miracle dog.” Marshall’s injuries included malnutrition, a bite mark and infected hole the size of a tennis ball in his left cheek and jaw, and a mangled left front leg that required amputation. Marshall’s condition was so grim that his heart stopped beating three times during his surgery; each time the surgical staff was able to revive him.
Willenbrock felt Marshall’s story was so important to share with others that she quit work to write a children’s book to share the importance of kindness. When Willenbrock adopted Marshall, she looked beyond his horrible and perhaps frightening scars and his lack of a limb to see the loving personality within him. That is her and Marshall’s message to others.
“One thing that was talked about in Marshall’s presentation was writing in a journal to help forgive others,” Johnson said. “Learning to have the responsibility of forgiveness and also standing up for one another is so important. Many people may not realize that the reason someone makes fun of or bullies someone else is because they’re actually missing something they need in their own life — a need not met.”
Being bullied or made fun of is not restricted to a particular type of person or how that person looks, talks, or dresses.
“Everyone at one point deals with bullying,” Johnson said. “People may feel alone, but they’re not — everyone has dealt with a bully in some form or another.”
Reaching out to others who are different is sometimes hard. Many junior high and high school students think it’s in their best interest to join along to keep from being the target themselves.
“Many people have lost their life because of being bullied,” EA-WR senior soccer player Nic Daily said. “Some of those people we’ve grown up with, a classmate. No one knows what someone’s home life may be like or what they’re going through. Instead of talking about them, joining along or bullying them for being different, it could pay to lend a hand because every little thing helps, whether you think it would or not. Your one time of being kind may be the turning point for a kid.”
Marshall’s story is so amazing it caught Hollywood’s attention. Movie stars such as Shannon Elizabeth (“American Pie”), Matthew Settle (“Band of Brothers”), Lauren Holly (“NCIS” and “Dumb and Dumber”) and Sinbad have accepted roles in the filming of Marshall’s story for the big screen. The filming began on July 3 in Edwardsville and will tell the story of Marshall and his message that dogs are people, too. See the trailer on http://vimeo.com.