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The Gift of Appreciating the Differences in All of Us

It’s the season of giving and I’d say not many individuals give more than this young lady has in her 17 years of life. I’d love for you folks to meet Gabriela Hernandez from the School for Advanced Studies in Miami. I had the pleasure of meeting Gaby for the first time at the Coral Gables Summer Literacy Festival where she was promoting her book: “Timothy’s Magic Wheelchair: The Martian Overlord.”

At the time, I was still chair to the City’s Advisory Board on Disability Affairs and happy to check out all the booths that were scoped out to represent the disabled population. This particular table took me by surprise because all the proceeds from this children’s book benefit the Jett Foundation. I was so intrigued and I simply had to find out more. So many questions came flooding into my mind. For example, why did she decide to do something so altruistic, especially at such a young age? From my experience, the people who choose to do these types of things are usually the ones whose lives have been directly affected, and helping others can become part of the growth that takes place when faced with adversity. Well, it turns out that was exactly the case. Her life forever changed when her cousin Ale was diagnosed with Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy, a genetic disorder usually diagnosed in early childhood that causes muscle weakness and degeneration due to the alteration of a protein that helps keep muscles intact. I can only imagine the amount of courage and resiliency needed to navigate a life filled with so much difficulty. It was after a trip to a theme park in Orlando where Gaby realized how difficult the prospect of being in a wheelchair was for her cousin Ale and that was really what sparked the idea for the book.

After that intro, I quickly went to Amazon to order a copy and our family was more than pleasantly surprised. It is a really well-written children’s book with a delightfully whimsical yet realistic twist about adapting to a physical disability. I seriously liked it so much that when I found out she would be at the Coral Gables Adventure Day for All, six months later, I went rummaging through my daughter’s bookshelf so that I could bring it to the event and ask for her signature – she already is a superstar in my mind!

If you’re looking for gifts that will teach your children about the beauty of appreciating the differences in all of us then this is the perfect book for you!

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