Tour of Kindness spreads message of acceptance

Quinn Kougl is just like every other 2-year-old. She loves living on a ranch in Lodge Grass, Mont., riding horses, rough-housing with her siblings, Nora and Cody, and playing outside.

Quinn Kougl of Lodge Grass, Mont., was diagnosed with Treachers Collins syndrome. (Submitted photo)

Quinn Kougl is just like every other 2-year-old. She loves living on a ranch in Lodge Grass, Mont., riding horses, rough-housing with her siblings, Nora and Cody, and playing outside.

Yet, despite her rambunctious personality and never-ending energy, Quinn was dealt an unexpected hand at birth - a diagnosis of Treachers Collins syndrome.

Treacher Collins syndrome is a condition that affects the development of bones and other tissues of the face. The signs and symptoms of this disorder vary greatly, ranging from almost unnoticeable to severe. Most affected individuals have underdeveloped facial bones, particularly the cheek bones, and a very small jaw and chin, according to the U.S. National Library of Medicine.

For Quinn's parents, William and Justine, her diagnosis has meant traveling to Denver for appointments and managing Quinn's feeding tube and tracheostomy tube for breathing. They've prayed as their youngest child has undergone five surgeries, knowing this is just the beginning of treatment for their daughter. And they've juggled it all with grace, all while managing a stocker and cow-calf operation in the remote Wolf Mountains.

"In 2017, the Wonder movie came out, and Augie, the main character, has Treacher Collins," said Justine. "It was amazing to see a movie that brought Quinn's diagnosis to light, and as Quinn gets closer to starting school, I want kids to accept her for who she is and feel comfortable asking questions."


That's what inspired the Tour of Kindness. Justine and Quinn, and sometimes Nora and Cody, too, started visiting schools in the area to talk about Quinn, the Wonder movie and book, and about how it's so important to be kind and caring to others - to accept and celebrate people for their differences instead of pushing them away.

"The idea behind the 'Tour of Kindness' tour started out as a way to address negative situations in classrooms," said Justine. "When we go into a classroom, we read the Wonder book and talk about bullying, empathy and kindness. I introduce kids to Quinn, and it helps show kids and adults alike how it important it is to accept everyone and especially accept ourselves."

Justine has taken her presentation to several schools already and is currently booking for the 2018-19 school year.

"Initially, I did just a few speaking events close to home because I wanted to prepare the kids who will go to school with Quinn one day, so they can understand that while she may have a different appearance, she's a normal kid. She's still just Quinn," said Justine. "I hated speech class in school, so this is something I never imagined myself doing, but as word got out, I've traveled farther and farther to present at schools."

Justine credits New Underwood, S.D., school superintendent George Seiler for getting the ball rolling. He invited her to come speak during Kindness Week at the school, as he wanted to incorporate the Wonder book into the curriculum.

"When I showed up at New Underwood, I realized he had invited the press, and a story about my presentation featured in the Rapid City Journal really got the word out," said Justine. "Ultimately, my goal in doing all of this is to change kids' perspectives so they can have a positive experience in school where they aren't bullied or picked on. I tell kids to 'be the difference' in order to make an impact. They must choose kindness every day and every hour."

To schedule a visit from Justine and the Tour of Kindness, contact her at 406-757-2596 or at .


What To Read Next
David Karki of SDSU underlined that planting cover crops like rye is not so much about big yield increases, but it will make the land more tolerant of fluctuations in weather.
Navigator CO2 Ventures is hoping to streamline the application process in Illinois as they add an additional pipeline to the mix.
Rod Burkard now has the opportunity to compete in August at the national event in Pennsylvania.
Benson and Turner Foods will process cattle and hogs at Waubun, Minnesota, on the White Earth Reservation with the help of a USDA grant.