SALT LAKE CITY — Wednesday marks the first Orange Socks Day, and formerly conjoined twins Kendra and Maliyah Herrin are donning orange socks as part of a campaign promoting support for and inclusion of people with disabilities.
The Utah twins were separated 13 years ago, when they were 4 years old, in what was the first separation surgery performed on conjoined twins with a shared kidney. Since then, they have undergone over 100 surgeries between the two of them. They have decided to share their stories and spread awareness and compassion via social media, particularly through their YouTube channel, which has over 30,000 subscribers.
They are using this day to call on their community to step up and do better.
“We can be more kind in the community by simply saying ‘hi’ – waving and eating lunch with someone who is alone at lunch,” Mayliah Herrin said in a press release about the event.
In the release, Kendra Herrin explained the best way to be inclusive is to “just think of people with disabilities as any other person." She wants people to pay attention to who is being left out and invite them to join you.
Orange Socks Day was created to change the message to those with disabilities. Rather than a message of "You don't fit in", the orange socks represent the message "We stand with you!" Learn more, & join us in celebrating Orange Socks Day!https://t.co/A53b4ESPBk#orangesocksdaypic.twitter.com/EDTF7VDek3— RISE Services Inc. (@RISE_Services) November 8, 2019
Dr. Gerald Nebeker, founder of Orange Socks and president of RISE Services, Inc., hopes the designation of Nov. 13 as Orange Socks Day will bring awareness and discussion, because he believes that exposure leads to advocacy.
“Ignorance works against acceptance and inclusion,” Nebeker said. “We want people to get to know individuals with disabilities and say, ‘They are more like the rest of than they are different.’”
Orange Socks, an initiative of RISE Services, Inc., came into being when Nebeker, who had been a professor and advocator for people with disabilities for years, found out his youngest daughter was diagnosed with Down syndrome.
“My degrees and experience didn’t help. The parent journey was just not out there,” he said. “I realized just how lonely it is. And the people I wanted to talk to were other parents who had gone through the same thing.”
The initiative aims to help educate and connect parents of children with disabilities, as well as advocating for those children. The Orange socks website contains hundreds of written stories and podcasts, as well as listing resources for each state, with the hope that parents who frequently feel isolated, especially if their children have extremely rare conditions, can connect with and learn from other parents.
Nebeker and his Orange Socks team are hoping to create a national movement with Orange Socks Day and are encouraging people to participate by buying orange socks (all the proceeds go toward connecting, educating, and advocating for individuals with disabilities), wearing them, sharing on social media, and even getting your community involved.
“It’s a simple thing, but it’s an outward sign of an inner commitment,” Nebeker said.