Kevin Hickey (email@example.com) is a former substitute teacher and stay-at-home-dad who writes good books young adults can really enjoy reading. His almost lifelong love of history and mythology, especially Greek and Norse history and mythology, has helped him create his great novel for young adults entitled Hidden Thunder. In it he describes how a great teenager books a flight with her parents to Sweden and has an exciting adventure with Thor, Loki, and trolls. Her name is Haley an she helps kids care about themselves and important things such as bullying and standing up for yourself.
He holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Language and International Trade from Eastern Michigan University and still speaks conversational French well. His degree consists of an academic focus on French and Marketing. He intends to write more great novels for young adults in the future by sending his heroine, Haley Lynne Johnson, on a series of mythological adventures. He explains that as she travels to different countries around the world, kids can learn about history and mythology in a fun and interesting way.
The author also wants us to imagine what kids can do. He wants to share his own experiences with his two daughters so that kids and parents will learn that they really can make a difference in their communities by being more involved. As parents we need to understand that when kids care, they can do amazing things.
The author’s hobbies include playing sports, listening to music, cooking, and playing chess. He wants us to ask ourselves what we might do if we came across gods and goddesses here and now. What if we met Poseidon while fishing? What if Zeus or Hercules was changing your oil for you one day at the Quickie Lube? What if Isis or Athena was the cashier at a Wal-Mart or someplace? How would you handle that? Find out how Haley handles it in the future as he writes more good books young adult readers will truly love.
My daughter Devan’s playground story is why I chose to do what I do. It’s a great story. Read on!
“You’re the safety officer, what are you going to do about it?” I can still hear Devan’s mother saying that to her as we stood in the middle of the park. We were members of the 4-H Explorers, and Devan was the safety officer for our club. Devan had just finished playing softball on the adjacent field and had to cross through the park to get to the car. Her younger sister Danika and I were killing time as best we could in the park waiting for the game to end. Devan had started pointing out some different things she saw that she thought were pretty dangerous before her mother’s comment. Then, she decided to do something about it. What she did was to take a bunch of pictures of everything she saw that was dangerous or that could hurt kids as they played. There was a big hole in the ground with several jagged chunks of concrete around it. The slide had a piece sticking up so someone could cut themselves going down it. The see-saw was broken. There were long bolts sticking out of the monkey bars, etc. Let’s just say that it would be very easy for kids to get hurt while playing at Roseland Park in Bryan, Ohio.
After Devan printed out the pictures, she made a big trifold poster of them on poster board. We contacted Dave Schumm, director of the Bryan parks and recreation department, and set up an appointment to see him. Mr. Schumm initially was a little concerned as to why we were there. I assured him that this was going to be a very positive conversation and we were not there to make any accusations. He then graciously allowed Devan to go through her presentation. She pointed out all of the hazards she had photographed while thoroughly explaining how a child could get hurt by them. He was very impressed, because Devan was only nine years old!
Mr. Schumm met with his department and they decided to make a serious overhaul to the park. Thanks to Devan, old equipment was replaced, holes were filled in, the teeter-totter was fixed, mulch was laid down, in short, it was like a brand new park. She was also given the opportunity to select the new equipment that was to be put in. She really liked that part because she got to go shopping in the playground catalog! The 4-H club adopted the park thereafter and always did things like plant flowers, clean up, and erase or paint over graffiti.
Devan’s mother saw a contest poster while shopping with her at Kohl’s a few weeks later. It read, “Kohl’s Kids Who Care.” Wow, they thought, we should enter this. They did enter it and sent in all the aplication stuff about her project. Devan won the National award for their program for what she did to make the park safe and help her community. It was amazing. She got her picture in the paper and put up all over the Kohl’s store and lots of attention. Mr. Johnson, Mayor of Bryan, actually proclaimed February 16, 2004 as Devan Hickey Day. She was also contacted by an author named Gail Williams who wrote a book about her and the park project entitled, Patching a Playground. Very cool. What was really cool though was what followed.
Devan received a check for a thousand dollars from Kohl’s to donate to a local charity. At first she thought about splitting it up somehow and spreading the money around. Because the club could not decide on how to best use the money, Devan chose to donate it all to the homeless shelter in Bryan. I called the shelter’s director at home and told her about our donation. She was home worried sick about the fact that her rent on the shelter was due in a few days on the first of the month and she didn’t have the money. The shelter was about to close down. Our timely donation kept it open and it’s still open today. Watching the teary-eyed shelter director give my daughter a huge hug in front of everyone at the check presentation was pretty awesome. I was, and still am, very proud of her. Then, Katrina hit, but that’s another story. Imagine what kids can do….
Here’s the rest:
Things had pretty much settled down from all of the fanfare surrounding Devan’s park project and Kohl’s award. Ever so briefly we thought that Devan might actually go on the Oprah show. Kohl’s headquarters is up the road from Chicago, just outside Millwaukee, Wisconsin. I guess Oprah’s producers nixed the idea for a show with Devan and the other national winners because nothing ever happened with them. I’m still dissapointed by that. I wanted to go on Oprah and cry too. I’m not bitter, though.
Hurricane Katrina paid us a visit on Monday morning, August 23rd, 2005. That following Saturday morning the news was on TV and we started watching this incredible destruction and devestation in Louisianna and Mississippi. The mayor of D’Iberville, Mississippi was on CNN showing everyone just how horrible it really was there. The townspeople were virtually homeless and sleeping in the park, their cars, or any other dry place they could find. I was making the girls pancakes for breakfast when Devan came into the kitchen and asked me what we were going to do to help some of these people. She really didn’t ask IF, we were going to help. WHAT, type of help we were going to do or provide was her question. She had the look. What was I supposed to do? We had just gone through this really cool thing with the park, the homeless shelter, 4-H, the book, Koh’ls, etc. Was I supposed to say something like, “Nothing, they’re too far away. Besides, they’ll get help somehow.” ? Things got pretty interesting afer that morning. Just remember, she gave me the look.
Devan and her mother went online and made a list of as many companies they could find that made outdoor or emergency type products. These companies made everything from sleeping bags and camping gear to water bottles and first aid kits. Starting Monday, I called as many as I could. Most of them said that they had already donated their share through The Salvation Army or The Red Cross. Others said that they had donated all they could before when the Tsunami hit last Christmas. Finally, I reached a company in Washington state named Cascade that was willing and able to make a donation. Because Devan and I had already contacted the mayor’s office in D’Iberville, we had a name, street address, and phone number to where their help could be shipped. They sent lots of stuff to D’Iberville. Lots. But what else? Again, with the look.
Devan and Danika made this really cool, colored stick kids design on the computer. We printed some off and taped them to buckets, placing them around the city of Bryan, Ohio and waited for Christmas to come. We wanted to give the money we collected to one family, that way it would make the most difference. In the mean time, Devan suggested that we could do a clothing drive and get the clothes down to Mississippi somehow. Great idea. We contacted Jeff Dick, the 4-H director in Williams County, Ohio to coordinate everything through 4-H. We knew that we could count on more than just a few sweaters that way. I expected to get several bags of clothes and jackets and stuff. It was fall now and was getting cold at night. No problem. Devan and I will throw the stuff in the van, grab some coffee and nummies, and drive to Starkville, MS. That is where Larry Alexander, one of Mississippi’s regional 4-H directors is located. His office is by Mississippi Sate’s football stadium in Starkville. That’s what I thought, anyway. I had to rent a U-Haul trailer to take down the entire roomfull of clothes that we collected!
I wish you could have seen the look on Larry’s face when he opened the back of the trailer and saw all the clothes and stuff. He has to be one of the most gracious men I have ever met. He was truly grateful for our efforts. My van got tired hauling all that weight and he took me over to a transmission shop to get it fixed. The owner was from Michigan originally and thought it was cool that we came down from Ohio. He fixed the van free of charge. Thanks, again. Thanks, too, for my ex father-in-law for doing most of the driving down there. While the van was getting fixed, we all went out to lunch. Ya know how they say go to New York for pizza, or Kansas City for ribs? Want some catfish? Go to Mississippi. Man, that was good.
When Christmas came we collected all the buckets and cashed them in. We got about four hundred and sixty bucks. Not a huge amount, especially compared with the clothes, but still not bad. Jeff Dick suggested that because we did this through 4-H that the money should go to a family with active 4-H members. I couldn’t agree more. 4-H is cool and teaches kids a lot of great values. Then I called this guy on the coast of Mississippi and told him I was sending him a check, and that he should cash it and use it for Christmas. Wow, what a great conversation. He was a shrimp boat captain who had a wife and four children who were living in a little trailer now. His house was destroyed by the storm. The money we sent gave him and his family all presents for Christmas at a time when they needed them most. He told me if I was ever down there, to look him up and he’d take care of me. Something tells me that I’d be in store for a few shrimp.
Thanks to Devan, we helped several families in some way or another. Whether from the clothes or the outdoor equipment, I know that we made an impact. I’d also like to point out that Larry and his staff sorted the clothes by sex and size and such and were able to get them distributed to the actual families within seven days. Amazing. I wish the state and federal governments would have called Larry and asked him how to get their stuff to people. All in all, it was a great project and a great trip. If you could only imagine what kids can do…
My Daughter Danika is truly an inspiration to me. Here’s why…
If Devan has helped combat the forces of nature such as Hurricane Katrina, Danika IS a force of nature! I just love her and her passion for life. Danika almost died when she was only twelve days old. She stopped breathing while she was asleep and was going to die from SIDS, or Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. We used baby monitors and her mother thought she heard her cry out. She went to her room and picked her up and brought her into the kitchen. Danika was turning blue. Luckily for Dani, her mother new CPR and resuscitated her in the kitchen. I was on the phone with 911. We lived in the county outside the city of Bryan, Ohio and it took seven minutes for the EMTs to arrive. That has got to be the longest seven minutes of my life. What is still a little odd to all of us, is how could she cry out, if she was suffocating to death?
Our front yard looked like a parking lot because of all the volunteers that responded to the call. Danika was a, ‘newbie’, as they call them. That means a new born baby and they all know how fragile life can be for them. We were interrogated quite thoroughly by the nurse in the emergency room. It didn’t take long for us to figure out that she needed to determine if we somehow caused Danika’s condition. After she was assured that we were panic stricken and had nothing to do with it and had actually saved her life then we were cool. We discovered that Danika suffered from sleep apnea. At only twelve days old, her brain hadn’t quite developed the ability to keep her breathing after she fell asleep. In effect, she would actually forget to breathe. Not good.
Normally kids with this condition wear a device that monitors their heart, pulse, and breathing rates while they sleep for about four or five months. I think she had to wear her’s for over a year. If she quit breathing for more than several seconds the alarm would go off. This was designed to startle her and wake her up so she would start breathing again. It was also there to wake us up so we could go rescue her if need be. Ever try to sleep with one ear open for a whole year just in case your baby is dying? I don’t miss that. Imagine what it must have been like for her though.
I can remember Danika defying me about closing a kitchen cabinet door when she was about a year and a half. I didn’t want her to get into it but she had other ideas of her own. She stood there and gave me the look. She opened the door, leaned up against it with her hand on her hip, and looked at me as if to say, “Yeah, and what are you gonna do about it?” You should have seen it. It was classic. Let’s just say that from that point on she was serving notice that she was not going to be easily intimidated!
Since about day one, life has been something of a struggle for her. Although she’s pretty smart she has had a tough time in school. We used to spend hours with her going over her homework and spelling words and such. She understood it most of the time but then couldn’t remember it. She also had reading comprehension problems. She would read short stories and not quite get them.
A lot of kids would have become defeated or grown obstinate because of these difficulties. Danika has been just the opposite of that. She has managed over the past several years to really pull her grades up. She has worked very hard and agreed in the past to extra tutoring and help from the school to try to catch up to her classmates. Recently, she just did!! I really admire her for trying over and over again to not only pick up her grades but more importantly to learn how to read and write as well as she does now. She loves to read and has written a book of her own! Way to go, Baby!
Danika loves music and animals, especially horses. As a reward for her school work improvement, she has been able to take riding lessons outside of Bryan for several years. She was so small at first that she had to use a stool just to mount the horse. Now, she’s riding bareback! Like her school work, Danika has taken lessons over and over again to get better. She loves it and works hard at that too! She is very active in 4-H these days and her and I got to spend a great day together wading the Huron River looking for aquatic wild life for one of her projects. We took some awesome pictures of a North American Water Snake catching and eating a little catfish. She got an ‘A’ on her project and deservedly so. She is also taking bowling lessons and has competed at both state and national bowling tournaments. Dani has indeed shown me over the years the value of being persistent and not giving up just because things are hard or you didn’t succeed, or get it right away. Thanks, Dani. I’m very proud of you. I now can truly imagine what kids can do!