A Blog by guest writer Benjamin Denen
I want to introduce you to the most special and amazing person I have ever met. His name is Josh, and I am immensely proud to be his baby brother. Those of you who have had the privilege of meeting Josh know that he is different, but I’m not referring to his extra chromosome. He may have Down syndrome, but that is not who he is. Josh is different because his worldview is the kind that if it could catch on, it would change the world. Josh, simply put, loves in the most selfless way possible.
To my sister and me, he is the best brother in the world. To my parents he is the ideal son. To my own child, he is the world’s greatest uncle, and he doesn’t even need the mug to prove it! To everyone else he is a cousin, nephew, and friend. He is a special and wonderful creation of God that has more character qualities that I endeavor to emulate than anyone I have ever met.
Special Announcement II
So, why am I introducing you to Josh and what does this have to do with my upcoming novella? As I said in my initial announcement, this book, unlike any of my previous works, had a very unique point of origin. At the risk of sounding a little crazy, this story came to me in the form of a very vivid dream, the finer points of which I can still remember over a month later. What I did not say in that announcement, is that one of the main characters, and really a key cog of the plot, is a character with Down syndrome that I largely based on my own brother. Now, those of you who know my family will be able to pick out a few similarities in the characters from my story to my family, but I assure you that it is still entirely a work of fiction. As it often does, art imitated life starting with my dream then as it came out on the screen while I wrote it. The character B.Jack—modeled after my brother—is a central part of my protagonist’s life just as Josh is mine. It is only natural that a story like the one I am releasing would follow that pattern.
The reason I am writing this second—and even more important–announcement is that the story I was almost “forced” to write by the memories of that dream had a profound impact on me. Not wanting to spoil the plot, I will simply say that it is a story that called me to action.
Last week I was reading through the book for what felt like the thousandth time as I was working on the edits, when a thought hit me hard. How can I write this story if I will not let it change me as I hope and pray it will my readers? In that moment, I made a decision with my wife that this story was never actually for us. It is for the countless numbers of special people just like B.Jack, like my brother. Together, my wife and I decided that all proceeds resulting from the sales of this book will go to a very special organization called GiGi’s Playhouse Rockford.
The following is an excerpt I took from the about page on their website. GiGi’s Playhouse is a one-of-a-kind achievement center for individuals with Down syndrome, their families, and the community. GiGi’s Playhouse offers more than 25 therapeutic and educational programs that advance literacy, math skills, motor skills and more; all of which are free of charge.
Though this is a very well written description, I don’t feel that it comes close to explaining the impact that this organization has had on my family in particular. My parents and brother have been involved with GiGi’s Playhouse Rockford for the last two-and-half years. I don’t have the space in this blog post to even begin describing how much it has meant to my family. Suffice it to say, the Denens are a huge fan of GiGi’s Playhouse Rockford!
My brother and my parents are regulars at a program called Friday Friends. It is a program designed for adults just like my brother, and by that I mean a special group of amazing people. I have had the privilege of volunteering at one of these programs while visiting my family, and I can attest from my personal experience what a rewarding experience being around GiGi’s can be.
Fast forward to my announcement. When my wife and I came to the decision that we needed to give all proceeds from this book away, GiGi’s instantly came to mind. When I talk to my brother on FaceTime or on the phone he is always telling me about an upcoming Friday Friends or one that just completed. It is one of the highlights of his month. I could think of no better way to live out the message of my novella than by partnering with them.
How will this work?
We are working on a distribution plan that will have the story available in ebook format and (hopefully!) physical copy in time for this Christmas season. Next year, with more time to work on it, we hope to greatly widen our reach. This year we will be using primarily Amazon.com as the online retailer distribute this story. In addition, we still plan to release the story as a serial on my blog. The reason for this is because we would rather the readers have access to the story for little-to-nothing so that we can encourage everyone to donate directly to gigisplayhouse.org/rockford in place of a normal retail fee. We are still working out pricing through Amazon, but we will be selling it at the absolute cheapest price that we will be allowed to. Amazon has a minimum pricing structure to ensure that they are repaid for their own costs and investment.
When the first chapters go live on November 28, we will include links to the donation page for the Rockford branch of GiGi’s Playhouse. I can’t encourage you enough to donate. If you are already giving charitably toward another organization then, by all means, continue to do so. The spirit of this book is one that is bigger than a single organization or cause. We can truly change the world if we adopt the same selflessness that my brother lives 24/7. My wife and I have very little in the way of money to give, so this story is my way of giving back just a portion of what I have been blessed with. We have done all of the work “in house” on this project (with major help from a couple of editors who were kind enough to donate their time!!!).
I can not wait to begin partnering with Gigi’s Playhouse on November 28 to help the world see what a blessing the Down syndrome community is. In the meantime, please visit www.gigisplayhouse.org/rockford for more info about their organization. My life is made infinitely better by the presence of my brother. My hope and prayer is that everyone is granted a similar blessing. If my novella plays even a small role in that, I will consider it a resounding success.