Lynne Weber had a vision.
A “proud daughter” of a special education teacher, wife, mother of two, and professional pediatric occupational therapist, the 37-year-old native of Bergen County, wanted to bring to children who have physical limitations, a colorful and imaginative world of possibility that goes beyond any limits.
She has done so, creatively, practically, and beautifully.
Her brainchild, Extraordinary Kids Project, is a self-published and inclusive coloring book that she is offering free to hospitals, organizations, and educational establishments across the country. Its official launch took place recently at the Joseph M. Sanzari Children’s Hospital Institute for Child Development at Hackensack University Medical Center, where she currently works, and where 500 copies were disseminated.
The coloring book features illustrations of children with physical challenges and complex medical needs in imaginative scenes, such as an astronaut with rocket-blaster crutches launching through space, a princess in a bejeweled wheelchair headed to the ball, and an amputee at a skate park doing tricks that wow his friends. The book also integrates a range of assistive devices such as walkers and braces, as well as medical devices, like feeding tubes and IV poles.
Ms. Weber’s initial inspiration for the book came about years earlier while she was treating a young boy in rehabilitation in preparation for a prosthetic leg.
“He completely adored art and would work his hardest if I could integrate coloring into whatever we were doing,” she said.
She began searching the internet for coloring pages featuring kids with physical challenges, prosthetics, or other assistive equipment, but could not find any that reflected the bold, adventurous spirit of her patient.
“I was looking for someone, an amputee, who looked awesome,” she said. “Someone doing something triumphant or creative, like a superhero, but I found that these images did not exist. The pictures that do exist were not exciting and do not embody the spirit of these incredible kids.”
So, she made the decision to create what she could not find.
She launched a Kickstarter campaign in March 2021 with the goal of crowd-sourcing funds to create the resource she envisioned so she could donate the finished product to children’s organizations.
The initial goal of the campaign was to raise $3,000, but the project continues to grow.
To date the Extraordinary Kids Project has raised $7,394 with 119 contributors since the campaign launched. The funds not only pay for the illustrator, but for publishing and distribution of the book.
“Right now, we’re donating 10,000 books to organizations all across the country and we’re just getting started,” she said. “The response to this project overwhelms me and gives me faith in this world. I hope it inspires others to take a leap, too.”
Also included in the coloring book is a glossary of sorts that explains the devices and equipment that the children may use.
“My intent was to ensure that kids and parents had a simple resource to better understand the equipment and devices pictured, in case they were new to them, without overemphasizing them or detracting from the spirit of the scene,” she said.
What makes the project even more special, she said, is that her late father, Jeff Baker, who recently passed away, asked that donations be channeled into the project.
“This is really a coloring book for everybody,” Ms. Weber said. “For these kids, for their siblings, for everyone.”
Seeing empowering images of kids with different abilities and medical conditions doing cool, fun, heroic, and imaginative things creates a positive sense of inclusion. Perhaps, thanks to people like Lynne Weber, these empowering images of youngsters with disabilities will no longer be the exception.
Organizations interested in donating to the cause, receiving a coloring book, or looking for more information on the project can contact Lynne at ExtraordinaryKidsCo@gmail.com.