SCARBOROUGH, Maine — A unique bond between a young man with special needs and his life-sized stuffed dog is coming to life on the pages of a children's book.
"A Dog & His Boy, the Adventures of Spillway and Scotty" was published last month. Since then, the family of Scotty Wentzell has been on a mission to get the book and its message of acceptance of people of all abilities into elementary schools and libraries not only in Maine, but worldwide.
It's a story about a unique friendship, one that has no limits. The children's tale is a rhyming book featuring colorful pictures by Maine illustrator Claudia Diller.
On Thursday, 300 students at Pleasant Hill Elementary School, along with members of Scarborough High School's Buddy System program went along for the ride of Spillway's life with Scotty Wentzell by his side.
Scotty, who's already had a lifetime of heart surgeries, has Dubowitz Syndrome. The extremely rare chromosomal disorder causes physical and developmental delays.
Scotty started therapy at a young age, his parents also immersed him in activities, from skiing and riding horses to surfing. Ever since his mother Lisa brought home the life-sized stuffed dog, the two have never been apart.
Lisa wrote the book with Heidi Bullen, a longtime friend, third-grade teacher, and children's book author. Their goal is to teach kids at an early age that they have the same dreams and aspirations as people of all abilities.
"They want the same things as they do, they want friends, and they want to be included, in work and play and in the community," Lisa explained.
"They ski, Scotty can ski, they water ski, Scotty can water ski, they ride horses, Scotty can ride horses, and make that connection," Bullen said.
Scotty and Spillway also made an appearance. Scotty who is non-verbal showed how he communicates using this special device.
It's a message of empathy and inclusivity that's hitting home for these youngsters.
"It doesn't matter if you have a disability, it matters if you have friends," Cam Twombly, a first grader, said.
"They are not the same as you, but they are still part of this world," Ellie Wagner, a first grader, explained.
Scotty's family is going on the road, taking the book to kids across Maine. Crescent Park Elementary, where Bullen teaches, bought 300 of them. 700 more will be given to elementary children in Scarborough.
Maine businesses are also stepping up, CMP plans to distribute 600 books to schools and libraries within their service area, and the book is also available at LL Bean. But Lisa isn't stopping until the book goes across the globe.
"We are hoping to get on the Today show, any national news affiliates, just get the word out there," Lisa said, hoping to inspire the next generation that welcomes everyone no matter their differences.
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