Wendy on Wheels is still rolling. She has grown up a little since we last saw her. Now, she is in high school. She is going to learn some new lessons and make some new friends. I’m so excited for Wendy’s newest adventure!
What do you think?
It’s been a while since I wrote a book. I took some time off writing books to focus on my family. I finally feel inspired again. YES!!! Wendy on Wheels book five has been written. One thing I will tell you is this story will be 100% true. Please be on the lookout for more updates.
Thank you for all of your continued support and encouragement.
The old expression goes, you can’t judge a book by it’s cover. However, when I opened the packaging for William Thomas Thach’s new book, The Girl Who Saved Christmas, I was struck by the absolute beauty of this book. The rich, red velvet cover and gold snap made me feel like I was in for a one of a kind experience. This book is different than any other Christmas book I’ve ever seen. I had share it with my three-year-old book-loving son!
Inside the book was a beautifully written story. The concepts of all the children being bad and forgiveness were a little over my son’s developing mind. However, the story, language and images kept his attention. I’m a big believer in introducing quality literature at a young age. A wonderful story with a spectacular message may not be fully absorbed by their young minds, but he or she will grow in to it. The emotion conveyed by the gorgeous pictures kept my son engaged. He’s asked to read it four times already. He even brought it to his school to share with his preschool class.
People of all ages will love this book! The story of Molly McCame, Mr. Nibbles and Santa is sure to become a classic. I’m so grateful to add it to my family’s Christmas book collection. More information is available at MollyChristmas.com.
The month of October has been busy for Wendy on Wheels! October 7th, my sister and I visited Kellison Elementary in Fenton, Missouri. We presented in an all school assembly for their Ability Awareness Day. What a wonderful group of students! Mandy and I talked about what it was like growing up. Then, we opened it up to questions and answers. There were a lot of good questions for Mandy. They were really imagining Mandy when she was in elementary school. They asked questions like, “What is your favorite color?” And “What is your biggest struggle in life?” It was awesome!!! Now, they can say they’ve met someone who uses a wheelchair.
This morning, we went to the two and three year old room at St. Micheal and St. George School. We read Wendy on Wheels Goes to the Beach. Afterwards, each child was allowed to touch Mandy’s wheelchair. Their teacher, Lisa has been teaching them about differences. They’ve been learning about difference in skin color and hair color. Today, the focus was differences in abilities.
School visits are my passion!!!! I love raising awareness especially with my sister!!!!
Here is the article I wrote for Mariashriver.com. I thought I’d share it here as well.
I grew up in the ’80’s with my sister who was born with Spina Bifida. Amanda, or Mandy as I call her, is four years younger than me. We did all kinds of fun and sisterly things together. When I was little, I didn’t notice anything different about her. She just happened to use a wheelchair. It was just a part of her.
When I started kindergarten and continued through elementary school, I remember whenever any of my friends saw my sister, they immediately asked, “What’s wrong with your sister?” That’s was all anyone wanted to know when they looked at her. All they saw was her chair, which to them was completely out of the norm and unusual for a young girl.
If I experienced this as a sibling, I can only imagine what Mandy went through when she started kindergarten. How many times a day was she asked similar questions? She rolled through school for twelve years. Although she had a happy and fun personality, she didn’t have many friends. They didn’t understand why she was the way she was. Maybe they felt like it would be too much work to be her friend, why bother. I don’t know the reasons, I only know it must have been lonely.
Mandy is now 29 years old, living at my parent’s house just outside of St. Louis, MO. I spend time with her when I can. Sometimes she’s laughing and ready with a sarcastic remark, at my expense. Other days, she’s depressed, very sad. The littlest thing can send her in to an angry crying fit. Some days, she doesn’t say much at all. Feeling like an outcast her whole life has finally taken its toll. This is what has become of my loveable, little sister who I used to giggle and play with every day.
A couple years ago, Mandy and I were talking about some of the people she has met through conferences who have disabilities and use wheelchairs. She said many of them feel unmotivated to get a job, because they think no one will hire them. Most of them just sit at home all day, watching TV or playing on Facebook. They feel completely isolated and severely limited by their situations.
This really bothered me and I knew I had to do something about it. There had to be a way to instill a positive outlook in children with disabilities while they were still young, before they started feeling different. What if there was a positive, loveable character for them to relate to?
With this in mind, I wrote my first book, Wendy on Wheels Goes to the Beach. I had a vision in my head of how I wanted my heroine to look. I hired an illustrator through a nearby university and published the book myself. The story follows Wendy on an exciting day at the beach with her mom and dad. It’s very visual, perfect for young children, without a lot of dialogue. The purpose of the book is to show children with disabilities that they CAN have fun and enjoy life.
I received a great response. Many children loved Wendy on Wheels and couldn’t wait for her next adventure. Not just children who use wheelchairs but their friends and siblings also loved the story. Able-bodied children began to relate to her as well. They saw a child having fun, not a child in a wheelchair.
Since then I’ve added three more books to the series with topics such as inclusion, bullying and volunteering. Discussion questions in the back of each book allow for use as a teaching resource. I visit elementary schools and camps to spread my message of acceptance of people of all abilities. Sometimes Mandy comes with me and reads to the children. Being naturally inquisitive, the youngsters love to meet Mandy and ask her all kinds of questions. Later we will talk about the experience and usually end up laughing at the antics of the students.
Wendy on Wheels has become a character with many different purposes. She motivates children who have disabilities to have fun and live life. She raises awareness among able-bodied children and teaches them that we are all the same regardless of perceived abilities. Through Wendy, children are learning to celebrate their own uniqueness and not be afraid of those who are different from themselves.
My hope is that Wendy on Wheels will be available to students and teachers in many more schools as people realize the impact of this powerful book series. With additional awareness and education, the younger generation will be more enlightened and accepting. A child rolling around school in her wheelchair doesn’t have to incite fear and girls like my sister, Mandy, will have many friends of varying abilities.
Over the past three years, I have written, published and marketed four books to raise ability awareness. I’ve visited many schools and expos, promoting acceptance and inclusion. Thanks to everyone who has supported Wendy on Wheels. This experience has allowed me to meet some truly amazing people.
Many have asked when the next book is coming out. While this is what I love to do, and the most worthwhile project I have ever worked on, I can no longer be the sole proprietor of this evolving series. The costs associated with creating, launching and publishing these books are very high. If Wendy on Wheels is to have more adventures and learn more lessons to be shared with children through these wonderful stories, I am going to need some help.
My passion lies in my ability to share stories offering children tremendous lessons about life, resilience and the importance of treating every human being with respect. My dream is to create an Ability Awareness Tour where I would travel around the country, speaking to groups and answering questions about the inspiration for Wendy on Wheels.
Here is the video, my sister and I made with Speak Up Productions. I will be sending it to companies in hopes of gaining a corporate sponsor for Wendy on Wheels. If you know of an organization with similar goals to mine that may be interested in promoting this campaign, please let me know. Thank you for your interest and continued support of this most worthwhile project.
My sister and I have finished all of our camp visits for the summer. It was a fabulous summer!! We met some truly amazing kids!!! What’s next for us?
In the next couple weeks, we will debut our youtube video, intended to increase public awareness of what life is like for my sister and others like her. Our video is being created by Speak Up Productions. Speak Up Productions is a St. Louis based media company that specializes in documentary film making on important issues that affect the world. I felt so honored and excited to be able to work with them.
A lot of the footage was filmed at our visit to Variety’s Adventure Camp and later that day.
I can’t wait to see the finished product!!! Please check back!!!
Last Wednesday, Mandy and I visited TASK’s Camp. TASK, which stands for Team Activities for Special Kids is a wonderful organization in St. Louis. They host many different activities and groups for children with special needs.
Luckily, it wasn’t a hot day. I think it was in the late 70s or early 80s, which is highly unusual for St. Louis in July. We read Wendy on Wheels Saves the Day and Wendy on Wheels Goes to the Beach to six different groups. The group that was the most excited and appreciative of Wendy was the oldest group. They were in their late teens and some in their 20s. They loved when Wendy became the “Wheeled Wonder.” They giggled and clapped.
It was so sweet that TASK provided us with lunch of pizza and watermelon. It was nice to have a break and hang out with the TASK volunteers and employees.
My favorite moment was with a group of 8 through 10 year olds. One little girl walked up and said “Not storytime! That’s for babies!” When Mandy finished reading Wendy Saves the Day, she said, “That wasn’t bad.” Then she asked, the frequently asked question of why Wendy uses a wheelchair. I told her, “I don’t really know. I’ve never given a reason.” Before I could elaborate she said, “What do you mean, you don’t know? Didn’t you write the books?” I’ve never had a heckler before. This girl was awesome!!!
I responded with, “The point is, “We accept Wendy as she is. The reason for her wheels doesn’t matter.” She seemed okay with that answer.
This was such an amazing day!! It felt wonderful not only to volunteer my time to read to this wonderful group of kids but to see them hang on every word of a book I created was truly an outstanding experience. I’m so grateful I had this opportunity.