Tom P. Kasprzak, Joanne M. Kasprzak
Mary Kasprzak (1988-2003) was an amazing youngster and an inspiration to hundreds of people with whom she interacted. In Plain Vanilla with Rainbow Sprinkles, her father, Tom, brings Mary's inspiration to you. This heart-wrenching, incredible journey chronicles how Mary's family and friends were strengthened and motivated to more fully understand the importance of every life, regardless of the labels we apply to one another.Mary Kasprzak was born with Down syndrome. Initially, her parents battled a multitude of perplexities and fears that spun through their minds like a hamster on a wheel. Defying all the predictions and labels-both cultural and medical-Mary transformed everyone she touched with her innocence, unconditional love, humor and ability to forgive. Through her daily unassuming deeds of kindness and compassion, Mary became the greatest of all teachers. Mary's life, punctuated by miracles and her death, surrounded by mystical events, served to strengthen her parents' faith. Mary added a final exclamation point to her life by saving the lives of five other people through organ donation. Her father's intimate portrait of faith, love and compassion, accompanied by an epilogue from the woman who received Mary's heart, will motivate you to see the world differently.
Jim Gleason on Goodreads wrote:
I had heard about this book through a friend in my college classes. Once she told us the basis of the story, I knew I had to read it. I searched for it on here and came across it. It arrived very quickly. I got through this book in one day. The story is very heart-warming with a great message for parents with children with disabilities that they are your sunshine, no matter what. Their disability does not outcast them, but rather, makes them who they are. Some of the experiences are comical and than some will have you in tears. This is a must for anybody who is thinking about teaching special needs, also.
This is a beautiful short book which tells the loving story of a family embracing life with a daughter born with Down syndrome who teaches them all about life in her own “plain vanilla” unassuming way. Mary Kasprzak faces a difficult life with determination and a smile that engages everyone she touches. Her too short life came to an end at the age of fifteen, but even in death she continued giving through organ donation, saving the lives of five people. Her life story is filled with challenges, both medical and cultural, which she courageously overcomes with miracles that strengthen the spiritual faith of her family and community.
Be prepared for your own strong emotional response to “living” with Mary through her father, Tom’s, excellent story telling. There are moments that will bring tears as in just one example, when their Disney trip has one of the famous Disney fairy princesses come through the crowd taking smiling Mary’s hand to come dance in their parade down Main Street. I can feel my own tears just in that recalling what was only a few minutes in her life, but a telling example of the invitation the reader feels to get connected to the stories he shares with us. Mary saw life in her own very positive way, so differently than most, seeing another human being as just like her, but who was struggling with their own personal challenges. She forgives those who mistreat her, doesn’t judge others, just greets them with a smile and her famous, “Hi!” After reading her story, you too may never see life the same again. Mary does that to people.
Almost as their own added “sprinkles,” the book concludes with some very personal reflections by family members of their life with Mary, including a final touching chapter written by the woman who, while never meeting her in life, lives today with Mary’s transplanted heart.
This is a must read book first for anyone with a Down syndrome experience in their own family or community, but it goes so much beyond that. Medical professionals who may come in contact with such families would benefit from the deep insights found in their story. We all are blessed in the Kasprzak family’s sharing of their daughter through this very personal and insightful book, one which will inspire all who take the time to enjoy its brief 112 pages, and that impact will linger long in your heart, still another gift of “rainbow sprinkles” from Mary through her shared life story.
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