By Jessie Hrivnak

In early 2020 my Dad was diagnosed with Lewy Body Dementia. It was not a term that I had heard before and knew very little about the disease. I quickly learned the impact that Lewy Body Dementia would have not only on my Dad, but on our family as a whole – especially my Mom who is his primary caretaker. Working hard to understand the changes in his behavior, logic and overall personality made it increasingly difficult to know how to navigate what felt like foreign territory for all of us.

My nature, when hard times hit me, is to find or create some kind of outlet where I can make a small impact. While this news (and subsequent related news) often felt unbearable to process, I also knew that there were families fighting this same news with much fewer resources. I could only imagine how hard they had it and wanted to bring reprieve to as many of them as possible.

As a doodler at heart, I started doing some simple line drawings to sell on social media where I could tap into my creative time, friends & family could buy some fun art, and I could put the proceeds towards families in need. I never had any idea it would lead to where we are now.

Enter Kendall, my spunky, creative and extremely charitable niece who lives in Colorado. Her Mom and Dad (my older brother and my sister-in-law) had shared some pictures of what I had been working on and what I had been doing. I got a facetime call from Kendall one day with a proposal. “Aunt Jessie” she started “I have been working on some drawings and I wanted to know if you would be willing to sell them on your Instagram page.” She continued by showing me some of her characters and not only was my heart full because of her giving spirit, I was also blown away by her imagination and creativity. While I knew that we could make a few sales from her drawings, I also sparked an idea that could not only increase our fundraising capabilities, but also show my niece how proud I was of her and how great her work was.

So, I silently got to work. I didn’t share with Kendall my idea as I didn’t even know if I could pull it off – I am not a writer by trade! I thought of different stories and ways that I could bring her characters to life and of that our book was born. In July of 2021, Kendall and her entire family were in town to visit and I was ready to present her with the initial draft of the book – she still had no idea what I had been working on. She was blown away seeing her characters come to life and immediately the wheels in her young, philanthropic mind started turning about who she could sell them to.

So far, we have sold almost 300 books simply by the generosity of friends, family and our community. The creativity, hard work, and time put into this project was all done in honor of my Dad/Kendall’s Grandad. We are so excited to be presenting our contribution to Dementia Alliance of North Carolina so that they can put our donations to good work for patients and caretakers.

While Kendall and I don’t know what is next, we do know that this will not be our last project. It has been such a honor to share this initiative with her and with everyone who supported us. Hard times will hit all of us throughout our lives and I encourage everyone to find that little spark within to find a way of turning pain and sorrow into something that makes the world a better place.

Let your heart be the most beautiful thing about you!

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