A spark of inspiration, coupled with determination and passion, often leads to something greater than anticipated. That’s what happened to Lynne Weber, MA, OTR/L. Lynne is a pediatric  occupational therapist at the Joseph M. Sanzari Children's Hospital's Institute for Child Development  at Hackensack University Medical Center and works with children who have physical limitations. Lynne is the clever mind behind the Extraordinary Kids Project, a creative and inclusive coloring book she recently self-published, that will be offered free of charge to hospitals, organizations and educational establishments across the country. 

 The coloring book features illustrations of children with physical challenges and complex medical needs in imaginative scenes - an astronaut with rocket-blaster crutches launching through space, a princess in a bejeweled wheelchair headed to the ball. The book integrates a range of assistive devices such as walkers and braces, as well as medical devices, like feeding tubes and IV poles. 

The book is intended not only as a source of representation and entertainment for a group particularly hard-hit by the pandemic, but for all kids. “It has been so incredible watching this book reach all sorts of kids. For some kids, it’s the first time they’ve seen a character that looks like them in the way they imagine themselves - fighting fire, climbing a mountain - just being extraordinary. For others, it’s an entrance to a world they’ve never experienced before.”

 Lynne’s initial inspiration for the book came about 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,” said Lynne. Lynne searched 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.

 Lynne 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 and donate 500 books, but the project continues to grow much to the delight of  children like 5-year-old Samantha Entenza and 9-year-old Stephany Posada, both of whom very much appreciate seeing children with similar physical challenges represented in the book. 

“Right now, we’re donating 10,000 books to organizations all across the country…and we’re just getting started!” said Lynne. “The response to this project overwhelms me and gives me faith in this world. I hope it inspires others to take a leap too.” 

“We’re so proud of Lynne’s accomplishment,” said Mark D. Sparta, FACHE, president and chief hospital executive, Hackensack University Medical Center and executive vice president of Population Health, Hackensack Meridian Health.”Her grit and determination are only outmatched by her creativity and commitment to caring for the children in the care of Hackensack University Medical Center. 

About Hackensack Meridian Children’s Health

Hackensack Meridian Children’s Health provides the most comprehensive and highest level of quality care to young patients in the state of New Jersey. The children’s network is comprised of two children’s hospitals – Joseph M. Sanzari Children’s Hospital at Hackensack University Medical Center in Hackensack and K. Hovnanian Children’s Hospital at Jersey Shore University Medical Center in Neptune – and a large network of pediatric subspecialists and pediatricians. Hackensack Meridian Children’s Health hospitals are the only two in New Jersey to be ranked among the top 50 in the nation for pediatric cancer care by U.S. News and World Report. Joseph M. Sanzari Children’s Hospital is ranked the #1 hospital in New Jersey in the 2021 U.S. News and World Report Best Children’s Hospital Report. Visit www.hackensackmerdianhealth.org/kids for more information about Hackensack Meridian Children’s Health.