Born An Angel by an Angel
By Chris Rohan, Disabled Dealer Magazine
Briley Rossiter is 11 years old, and like other girls her age she likes hanging out with her friends, having sleepovers, going to movies and shopping. But Briley is not your typical 11-year-old. She has experienced a lifetime of ups and downs, joy and sadness, disappointments and happiness, and just two weeks ago, on May 15, 2013, her first book, Born An Angel, was published.
Born An Angel is a children’s book about her sister, Ainsley, and how running together they bonded as sisters. The book starts with how excited Briley was to have a baby sister only to find out she had serious problems. Her joy turned to sadness. But then they met Team Hoyt, a famous father and son team competing in marathons and triathlons across the country. Dick Hoyt pushes his son Rick, who has Cerebral Palsy, in a wheelchair. Briley was instantly inspired by the Hoyt's and Team Ainsley was born.
Brilliantly illustrated by Jennifer Ware and published by Mascot Books, Born An Angel captures the inspirational story of two sisters determined to overcome the obstacles associated with Ainsley's extremely rare, progressive genetic nerve condition, Infantile Neuroaxonal Dystrophy (INAD)
Ainsley’s Angels of America has partnered with my Team Triumph (mTT) in Louisiana, North Carolina and Texas. This partnership has resulted in the creation of three 501c3 public charities: Ainsley’s Angels of Southwest Louisiana, Ainsley’s Angels of Eastern Carolina and Ainsley’s Angels of Texas. These athletic ride-along programs were created for children, teens, adults and veterans with disabilities who normally would not be able to experience endurance events such as triathlons or road races. To sum it up, they are a volunteer-based service that provides jogger chairs, bike trailers and rafts for anyone who has a disability (known as Captains) and runners (known as Angels) to push them in endurance events.
I had the opportunity to interview Briley, asking her some questions that most adults would have difficulty answering. But, not Briley!
Q: You must be so proud that you are already a published author! Why did you decide to write “Born An Angel”?
A: After my dad told me about the opportunity to write a children's book, I was very overwhelmed. I felt excited, scared, touched, and doubtful all at the same time. Despite all of this, I knew that this was an opportunity I couldn't turn down. I wanted to share Ainsley's story with all people, but especially with children. I wanted to teach them to accept other people with disabilities, not to be scared of them.
Q: Are you working on any new books now?
A: I'm not currently working on any books, but I plan to write another book in the future. It would also be about Ainsley, but more for older audiences.
Q: What other activities do you like to do besides writing?
A: In addition to writing, I like to run. More specifically, I love to run with Ainsley. I also like to read and hang out with friends.
Q: Does all the attention on Ainsley bother you? Yes or no, and why?
A: Only negative attention bothers me. Whenever we go to the grocery store, for example, people stare at Ainsley. This is something that really bothers me. I pity those who stare at her but don't have the courage to ask questions or say hello. Just because she's in a wheelchair or looks a little different, doesn't mean that she deserves to be stared at or left out.
Q: What do you hope that the readers will take home with them?
A: I want to share the message of inclusion with children. I want the book to also be in every elementary school nationwide and further. If Born An Angel does only one thing, I want it to educate.
Q: Have you thought about the future?
A: Yes. In fact, I recently wrote an essay for my English class about what I want to be when I grow up. I wrote about wanting to be a pediatric physical therapist. This is because I really want to work helping children and I have seen how much of an impact they've had on Ainsley's life. In addition to this, I would like to continue writing as not only a way to help others, but as a way to channel my emotions once Ainsley is no longer here with us.
Q: Besides your sister, Ainsley, who inspires you?
A: My biggest inspirations are Dick Hoyt and his son, Rick Hoyt. They inspired me and Ainsley to start running together. I look up to them in so many ways and they are such kind and devoted people. I hope I can one day impact people's lives like they impacted mine.
Q: Do you ever feel angry?
A: Yes. Sometimes I feel angry with myself for being angry, if that makes sense. For my own selfish reasons I wonder, why me? It tears me apart to watch Ainsley slowly slip away from me. I want a younger sister that I can play with and that is healthy. But sometimes I'm mad at life; like it's not fair to Ainsley. However, I think that it's better to do good things in your life instead of worrying about the bad. I want to help Ainsley's life be the best it can be, and running is one way to do that.
Q: Do you keep a diary or a Journal?
A: I don't keep any type of journal or diary right now. However, when I was writing my book, I did keep track of my feelings and thoughts in a notebook.
Q: Do you ever feel afraid?
A: Yes. Sometimes. I'm afraid of the unknown. I don't know how long Ainsley with be here with us and that scares me. In February of 2012, Ainsley got very sick with pneumonia and was in the PICU at CHKD (Children's Hospital of the King's Daughters) for three weeks. I remember the day that Dad took her to the hospital like it was yesterday. Ainsley looked limp and pale and was having trouble breathing. When she got to the hospital, the machines said that she was hardly breathing and she was classified as experiencing respiratory failure. Even the doctors told us that this would be it, that Ainsley would not wake up in the morning. I knew that I wouldn't be able to see Ainsley again. However, the doctors were wrong and Ainsley is still with us today. Ainsley has gotten pneumonia since then but has not been back to the hospital. That was the scariest thing that has ever happened to me. I try not to think about that time a lot, rather I think about how blessed we are to still have her with us today.
Q: If you were granted one wish, what would your wish be?
A: I wish that everyone could be treated equally and not judged for their differences. This was the main reason I wrote the book. I know that the world would be a much better place if everyone naturally stayed kind and accepting.
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