WHY WE NEED TO SHOUT AND SHOWCASE THE TALENTS, THOUGHTS, IDEAS & VOICES OF KIDS WHO ARE DIFFERENTLY “ABLE” by Pat Loewi
When I suddenly lost my daughter Sammy, four years ago to muscular dystrophy, I was devastated. She was only 22 and we thought we had 20 more years with her. After all the sobbing and complete denial subsided, I found myself writing frantically to keep her with me. At the end of two years I realized that it was all too personal and really not what she would have wanted me to make public. I asked myself, “What would Sammy want?” In a wheelchair since she was 10, she felt very excluded and marginalized in high school; therefore the answer was she would want me to show how valuable differently-abled youth are and how much they have to offer.
This lead me to interview 60 differently-abled youth at our local Easter Seals Camp in Empire, Colorado. They host a different organization every week all summer long. I had the privilege of interviewing kids with cerebral palsy, diabetes, hemophilia, muscular dystrophy, Down syndrome, and more. I then went to our wonderful Children’s Hospital of Colorado and with parent permission for all the interviews, I conducted four writing workshops with 30 children some waiting for a heart or liver transplant and a young teen being treated for five different cancers. To a child, whenever I asked “Sara, how’s school going?” or “Brad, what’s your favorite thing about school?” They would answer, “It’s really tough…if kids would just say hello to me. I feel invisible!” After these poignant interviews, I realized we needed to change our school culture.
For the art in the book, I turned to VSA Access Gallery/Colorado. They are part of a national program started by Eunice Kennedy Shriver and work with differently-abled youth in after school art programs. I also borrowed, with permission, wonderful art from the Muscular Dystrophy Art Gallery out of Tucson and was amazed at what I found in both galleries…wow, what incredible talent!
Thus the book was born — SHOUT: A LOUD AND LIVELY BOOK SHOWCASING THE TALENTS, THOUGHTS, IDEAS AND VOICES OF KIDS WHO ARE DIFFERENTLY “ABLE.”
Besides showcasing the incredible art, quotes and poetry, I have included in the APPENDIX a school curriculum for a BUDDY PROGRAM (pairing able-bodied and differently-abled youth) in a once a month program. This is an impactful program implemented for the past 16 years at Sammy’s elementary school, Graland Country Day, in Denver. When she was in the 4th grade, I was running Special Olympics Colorado and the kids could choose a community project with which to get involved. Sammy suggested to her class that they bring Special Olympics to Graland and now it is a year-long program. Some of the comments from the kids are:
“The Buddy Program is an amazing experience and I wish everyone could do it. It’s unbelievable.” Sloan—10.
“If I hadn’t met my buddy, I would have turned kids with disabilities down and wouldn’t have known how fun they are.” Douglas—10.
I’ve also included a Glossary of Disability and Disease Definitions and suggestions on “How To Interact With People With Disabilities.”
Writing this book turned out to be a labor of love for me and an exercise in expressing so much of what Sammy and her differently-abled friends have taught me over the years. Their insights, wisdom, humor, intelligence, and sensitivities are hopefully captured throughout the pages.
For more information, go to my website: www.shouteffect.org and SHOUT can be ordered on line or through any book store.
All profits from the book will be donated to qualifying participating non-profit organizations.
Pat Loewi grew up in Salt Lake City, Utah, where she taught English and history before moving to Washington, D.C. Pat worked on Capitol Hill doing press work in those halcyon days when Congress was collaborating.
She is currently living in Denver, Colorado, near her daughter Kim, Kim’s husband Jeff, and her three granddaughters. (Pat’s husband, Andy, passed away from kidney cancer in 2007). Pat has spent most of her professional career in telecommunications, radio ownership and nonprofit work. She served as CEO for Special Olympics Colorado as well as the Kempe Foundation for Abused and Neglected Children. However, she admits to learning most about kids who are “different” from her daughter Sammy’s experiences of feeling marginalized. Sammy was in a wheelchair with Ullrich Congenital Muscular Dystrophy from the age of 10 until her untimely death at age 22.
Pat is therefore motivated to change the culture by promoting kindness, compassion and acceptance of kids who are “different.”
SHOUT is Pat’s first book.