SANTA BARBARA, Calif., May 4, 2021 /PRNewswire/ — When 21-year-old Kameron Shepherd from Portsmouth, OH, was given a terminal diagnosis, he contacted Dream Foundation, the adult dream-granting organization. He had an unusual request — he wanted to use whatever time he had left to write, illustrate, and publish his own book.
But not just any book. Kameron wanted to tell a very personal story of what it’s like to grow up feeling unseen and unheard. He wanted to give people like him a voice.
Kameron has been living with Ewing’s Sarcoma since the age of two. He grew up looking and feeling different. The kids he met weren’t always kind. He struggled with the sense of isolation and insecurity that brought.
Kameron found solace exploring in the woods. He began drawing and writing both as a creative escape and as a way of expressing his feelings.
When he learned that he was facing the end of his life, Kameron wrote to Dream Foundation with help from his social worker, Julie Fenton of Southern Ohio Medical Center, with his idea for an illustrated novel about a swamp creature named Barry. Much like Kameron, Barry is confused, scared, and uncertain of where he fits. But his journey through the woods leads to some surprising discoveries – about himself and the world around him.
“I wanted to publish a story that acknowledges emotional and physical ailments as a way of teaching kids and others it’s normal not to feel ‘normal’,” Kameon says.
Kameron’s creativity immediately captured the imagination of Kisa Heyer, Chief Executive Officer of Dream Foundation. “He just wanted to see his story in print,” she says. “But we thought, we can do better than that!”
By fortunate coincidence, longtime award-winning journalist Nancy Perry Graham had recently joined Dream Foundation’s board. When she heard about Kameron’s Dream, Graham knew just the person to ask for help – writer and publisher Ruth Porter, the granddaughter of legendary book editor Maxwell Perkins.
Graham and Porter embraced Kameron and the project, and with their coaching, Barry’s Wake Through The Forest started coming to life.
Says Kameron, “When I first made Barry, he was just a simple sketch on my phone. But he told a story in just one image. Ruth and Nancy loved him from the get-go.”
What began as a mentoring relationship developed into a strong bond. Says Graham, “Kameron’s creativity, his enthusiasm, and his gratitude for simple kindnesses are all such beautiful qualities. I love watching him take small nuggets of advice and apply them in a thoroughly original way. He’s living his life and writing his book on his terms, and that’s remarkable.”
Kameron has spent the last nine months writing and illustrating Barry’s Wake Through the Forest, often speaking with Graham and Porter, who offered inspiration, ideas, and endless support.
Says Kameron, “Nancy had made me feel more confident than ever when it came to my artwork. I was embarrassed by it, but she loved it and was always rooting for more.”
Porter also found herself moved by the whole process. She says, “It’s been a joy to work with Kameron. He is so sweet and generous because he has been through so much in his short life. You can just feel it when you talk to him.”
Says Kameron, “Working on ‘Barry’ and turning him into a book is something I never would’ve imagined if it wasn’t for the support of the great friends, I made at Dream Foundation.”
About Dream Foundation
Dream Foundation, the only national dream-granting organization for terminally-ill adults, fulfills final Dreams that provide inspiration, comfort and closure at the end of life. With the support of a nationwide network of volunteers, hospices, health care organizations and committed donors, Dream Foundation has given life to more than 32,000 final Dreams since being founded in 1994. Dream Foundation receives no state or federal funding—we rely solely on private donations. To support our mission, please visit DreamFoundation.org/donate.
SOURCE Dream Foundation