KidQuest September-October 2006

by Quest Staff on September 1, 2006 - 3:36pm

QUEST Vol. 13, No. 5
Colby Pretz
To the house next door — and beyond! In 2004, 4-year-old Colby Pretz, of Pacific, Wash., made his Halloweenrounds in Galactic Fashion as Buzz Lightyear.

Unleash your inner wheelchair

By day, it’s an ordinary, mild-mannered wheelchair or scooter. But on Halloween night, its inner fantasies come to life and it transforms into — a Wienermobile? Well, every chair has a right to its dreams.

On Halloween, other wheelchairs show their true colors by becoming racecars, fire trucks, monsters, superheroes or even Herbie the Love Bug. All it takes are a few ingredients, like cardboard, paint, tape, ingenuity and the ability to sense a ride’s true inner spirit.

Be careful not to let creativity overshadow safety. Make sure the costume is fire-safe, has good visibility, won’t catch any fabric in the wheels, steers easily and will fit through the door.

Have a photo of your wheelchair costume creation? Send it to: MDA Publications, 3300 E. Sunrise, Tucson, AZ 85718, or e-mail a high-resolution image (at least 300 dpi) to Photos must be received by May 31 for next Halloween’s story. Be sure to include your name, address and phone number.

Lane Garrett Jackman

Laura Merchant

Go #12! Lane Garrett Jackman, 4, of Oklahoma City loves NASCAR driver Ryan Newmanto roll “Oh I wish I were an Oscar Mayer wiener…”
Laura Merchant, of Rochester Hills, Mich., decided   to stop wishing and turned her scooter into the  Wienermobile last Halloween. Laura, then 17, won first prize in her high school costume contest.

Lucas and Halsey Blocher

Hoyt Landis

Halsey Blocher, 8, of Fort Wayne, Ind., portrays Maggie, and her wheelchair is the magical Volkswagen bug Herbie, as seen in the 2005 movie “Herbie Fully Loaded.” Younger brother Lucas, 3, is Captain Hook from “Peter Pan,” complete with pirate ship (but no wheels).
Hoyt Landis of Middleburg, Pa., 2 years old in this photo, is ready when he hears the call.

Wanted: A few good (teen) leaders

Attention: highly motivated high school students with disabilities! You can develop your leadership and self-advocacy skills — and have a totally awesome time — by participating in a Youth Leadership Forum (YLF), a free summertime program held in many states.

Small group of teens

Chad McCruden (far right), poses with a small group of teens he led at the 2002 Maryland YLF in Annapolis.

YLFs, which range from one to five days depending on location, help students with disabilities prepare for leadership roles in college, careers and beyond. Programs include social, artistic, athletic and recreational activities, along with speakers on such topics as disability rights laws, school accommodations, career planning and innovations in disability technology.

Students learn how to work for change through their state governments. Each student also meets with an adult mentor, preferably someone with a similar disability who has achieved success in the student’s chosen field.

“What I find unique and empowering is that many of the YLF staff have disabilities themselves and have succeeded in life,” says Chad McCruden of Owings Mills, Md., who volunteers with the Maryland YLF pro-gram. McCruden, who works for an independent living center in Baltimore, has Friedreich’s ataxia. “It makes me feel good about the future knowing that these YLFers are going to be running the world one day.”

Only a limited number of students are accepted to the forums, which often meet on college campuses. Students must answer essay questions and submit letters of recommendation in order to be considered. Although the Association of Youth Leadership Forums (AYLF) has affiliates in 38 states, not every state holds a forum every year.

“My YLF experience fine-tuned my perspective of life,” says Kavita Krishnaswamy, 24, of Columbia, Md., who has spinal muscular atrophy. She went on to attend the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, and founded the school’s first organization for students with disabilities. She says YLF gave her “the Secret of Success: If we want something to change, we have to try to change it.”

For more information visit the AYLF page on the Montana YLF Web site ( or call AYLF Chairperson June Hermanson at (406) 442-2576.

Applications usually are due around the first of the year or early spring, so it’s not too early to get started.

Note: YLF, which is free to participants, shouldn’t be confused with National Youth Leadership Forums, which don’t have a disability focus and which charge for participation.

Take a look, they’re in a book

Super Ash and Super Max

Super Ash and Super Max, on the lookout for life-threatening danger.

Remember the name Ash Brittenham, because he clearly has a future in the world of publishing. For the second year in a row, Ash has won a Reading Rainbow Young Writers & Illustrators Award in his home state of Vermont, for his book “The Adventures of Super Max.”

Ash, 9, a third-grader in Montpelier, Vt., loves to draw, write stories, and play with superhero toys and his German shepherd, Max. Max provided the inspiration for his story about a dog who eats some special dog food and becomes a lifesaving superhero. The story was awarded honorable mention in the Second Grade category.

Last year, Ash, who has Duchenne muscular dystrophy, also won an honorable mention in the Reading Rainbow First Grade category, for his story “Cat and the Scary Dog.”

Ash’s book can be seen and read online by going to the Vermont Public Television site,, and clicking on “VPT Kids.” Or, if you’re ever in Vermont, you might be lucky enough to catch an episode of “Reading Rainbow” and hear Ash read his story aloud.

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