CLEARWATER, Fla. — Jill Olsen held back a tear as she thought about her son’s diagnosis. For eight years she wondered what was wrong. The answer wasn’t what she expected.
“His body does not break sugars down correctly,” she explained.
The rare illness has no treatment and no cure. Her son, Samuel, isn’t worried about his health. He’s more focused on writing his first book.
“It’s a mystery,” he said with a smile.
Dallas Graham smiled, too. He’s been traveling the United States for the last six and a half years meeting kids just like Samuel. He started the Red Fred Project to give children facing rare illnesses an outlet to tell stories. He helps them write and develop a books and wants to have one story from a kid in all 50 states.
“Most of them have never thought about becoming an author,” Graham said. “We get to make children’s books written and guided and directed by children.”
The idea came after a close friend’s child was given grave medical news. Graham decided he needed to preserve the stories of the precious kids facing difficult diagnoses.
So far, he’s been sharing stories in 17 states. Samuel’s story is yet to be titled but it's about baseball and caring for others.
“His themes that he wanted to focus on are about being grateful and trusting others, and those are big things in his life that we’re hoping really come out with his characters,” Graham said.
Graham met the Olsen family a few months ago. He’s spent many days with Samuel formatting the book and developing characters. Jill never thought her son would be an author. Sam has overcome not only his rare illness but dyslexia as well.
“This has been amazing for him,” she said.
“He gets to write this awesome book, and he gets to teach the world a lesson and just to be in this and be doing this with Dallas, this has been for him. It’s so authentic. It’s so real, and who would have ever through this would happen?”
Each book features a bird designed by the child. That bird is made up of commas, exclamation points, and periods and joins the other kids' birds in what Graham calls the “Jolly Troop”. It’s another way to connect these authors’ works and uplift them during often difficult medical times.
Samuel’s bird is called Stormy.
“Stormy is a really good leader in the book,” Graham hints.
Samuel’s book will hopefully be finished by the end of February. You can see all of the Red Fred Project books and buy already-completed copies on the RFP website.
You can see more of Bobby Lewis' On the Road stories here:
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