Young author to discuss Make-A-Wish experience at Northshire

MANCHESTER —At the age of 7, Jamie Heath suffered a brain aneurysm and stroke. But a special opportunity made possible by a non-profit organization helped her through her recovery.

Now 17, Heath wants to tell her story in order to educate readers about the importance and mission of the Make-A-Wish Foundation, a non-profit organization that works to "grant wishes," or arrange special experiences, for children with life-threatening medical conditions.

She's done so in a new picture book, "Wishes Are Medicine! How Make-A-Wish Gave Me Hope and Helped Me Heal." She'll present her book on Friday, Aug. 10 at 11 a.m. at the Northshire Bookstore, along with illustrator Leonard Kenyon of Arlington.

"[Because of the book] more people will know what Make-A-Wish's message is, which is that wishes aren't just for terminally ill kids, they're for kids with life-threatening illnesses," she said.

"Wishes Are Medicine!" tells the story of a young Heath's journey to recovery and the impact of her wish, a trip to Hawaii to swim with sea turtles. "Before I went to Hawaii, I was just in this state of glumness, and I just sort of wanted to run away from all my problems. I just thought about my deficiencies way too much," said Heath. "When I got back, I felt that I no longer had to run away, and my wish did that."

The book was also a wish come true for Kenyon. "I'd just lost a book deal that had been in the works for years, and that very same day, [Make-A-Wish] called me. The timing was nothing less than serendipitous," he said. "It was awesome to meet Jamie Heath and do something that was uplifting for the soul."

Heath and Kenyon worked closely on the book in order to introduce a serious topic to young readers in a non-threatening way. Kenyon approached the project with "a sense of whimsy" to make it as accessible as possible, thinking that "making it fun and whimsical was [the best] approach."

Though centered on a serious theme for a picture book, the goal of Wishes Are Medicine! is to deliver an inspiring message of hope and recovery. "Being in [Heath's] presence is such an uplifting thing.

This is a girl who struggled for so many years, but she's a such a jokester and none of it has ever affected her spirit.," said Kenyon. "I was upset over a cancelled book deal, and here's a kid who had to learn how to walk and read again who's able to make jokes and play sports. She's incredible."

While busy with sports, her job at a production company in Barre, and her college applications, Heath is excited about her upcoming statewide book tour, which will last through August 13 and include stops in Burlington, Middlebury, Rutland, and Heath's hometown of Barre, in addition to Manchester.

"[The book] is just a story about a girl overcoming a scary event, and who is now in a much happier place," Heath said. "This is more than I ever imagined my wish could turn out to be."


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