Hollywood rallies for a unique charitable venture.
In 2010, award-winning actress Winslet narrated the documentary A Mother’s Courage about the plight of Margret Ericsdottir, loving mother to teenaged son Keli, who was stricken with nonverbal autism. The film drew widespread attention for its stark depiction of a child silenced by the ailment, able to communicate with only pen and paper, and of the lack of support and resources available to families surviving with it. Ericsdottir and Winslet remained close, yet as a mother of two “verbal, expressive, affectionate children,” Winslet continued to be moved by Keli’s poetry and creative writing, along with the stories Margret shared by email. In a particularly heart-rending section, Ericsdottir shares her heartbreaking story of love and devotion to a son struggling to communicate everything from food choices to nagging physical pain from osteoporosis. The humanitarian actress soon resolved to do something beneficial for the cause. She began sending around an old tattered hat to celebrities, requesting they photograph themselves wearing it along with a witty, personally worded expression. The photographs—ranging from the humorous (Conan O’Brien, Steven Soderbergh) to the heartfelt (Reese Witherspoon, Oprah Winfrey) to the bizarre (Woody Allen, Edward Burns)—are all prefaced by the powerfully poignant “first words” of ten pictured individuals with nonverbal autism. Many pronouncements overshadow their accompanying photographs. Kylie Minogue offers, “I can still hear you, even though the show has finished. Can you hear me?”; both South African designer Albertus Swanepoel and Jodie Foster plead, “Don’t give up on me.” The book’s proceeds fund “The Golden Hat Foundation” to create autistic awareness and assisted-living campuses for those affected.
A moving, sanguine labor of love.