Pat Loewi’s daughter, Sammy, felt invisible at school.
Powering through the halls at her big, urban high school, she was ignored. The kids didn’t look at her. They didn’t smile at her or make eye contact, even when Sammy had her adorable service dog, Annie, by her side.
“Kids just looked right past her,” Pat says.
Sammy had been diagnosed with muscular dystrophy at 18 months old.
“She never felt sorry for herself,” Pat says. “She was proud of who she was — with muscular dystrophy and all. That was who she was and she was very accepting of that and really taught us all so much about moving forward and being positive, whatever life hands you.”
A swimmer, an accomplished musician, an MDA goodwill ambassador, and a perpetual champion for the underserved and vulnerable, Sammy was a force of nature. She had an insatiable zest for life and wouldn’t hesitate to speak up if she saw injustice.
“She never complained. To me that was extraordinary,” Pat says. “This was a child who could never get out of bed by herself, couldn’t dress herself. She could do her own hair and makeup, but she never complained. It just taught us all such a great lesson about tenacity and determination.”
Four years ago, at just 22 years old, Sammy unexpectedly passed away.
That’s when Pat decided to make those extraordinary kids, like her daughter, visible.
That’s when the book SHOUT was born.
Pat interviewed kids at the MDA camp that Sammy attended and at the children’s hospital. She filled the book with their thoughts and paired their words with artwork created by kids with disabilities and illnesses, some of which is from MDA’s own collection. The net profits from the book go to various organizations, including the Muscular Dystrophy Association of Colorado.
“I interviewed 90 children, and when I’d ask, ‘How’s school going?’ they’d all say, ‘Oh, it’s awful. If kids would just say hello to us,'” Pat recalls. “So, I thought, ‘I’ve got to write this book to show how valuable kids of difference are.'”
The book also includes information on bullying and a curriculum for a unique buddy program that brings able-bodied students and differently-abled students together.
“Their difference shouldn’t be a barrier to getting to know them and respect them as human beings. They have the same ambitions and dreams and hopes as everyone,” Pat says.
SHOUT recently received a silver medal from the Parents’ Choice Awards, with the reviewer calling for the book to be standard reading in every classroom and home across the country.
That is Pat’s goal.
“I think we need to start teaching kids at a very young age about kindness and compassion and empathy. I think this is one way to do it,” Pat says.
Sammy would be proud.
“She’s cheering us on from upstairs,” Pat says. “She really is.”
To order the book, visit www.shouteffect.org. Proceeds from sales will go to the participating non-profits, including MDA.