Barre teen who penned Make-A-Wish book to give Middlebury reading
MIDDLEBURY — The captain of boat warned Jamie Heath that they might not see any sea turtles. Initially disappointed, as the sea creatures were her inspiration to choose Hawaii as her destination in the first place, she kept her head down and searched among the coral.
“If you see a sea turtle, call ‘Jamie,’” the captain announced.
Only a little while later someone yelled her name. She stuck her head beneath the water’s surface to find the turtles swimming beneath her.
“They’re such beautiful creatures and really tiny — they weren’t even 50 pounds,” Heath said.
At 14-years-old, Jamie Heath of Barre, who survived two strokes, was granted a wish through Make-A-Wish Vermont to travel to Hawaii with her family and to swim with sea turtles. Now, a rising high school senior and an early-college enrollee at Vermont Technical College, Heath this week is embarking on a statewide book tour to read from her book about her wish experience.
The book is “Wishes Are Medicine! How Make-A-Wish Gave Me Hope and Helped Me Heal,” written by “Wish Kid” Heath and illustrated by Leonard Kenyon of Arlington. It tells the story about Heath’s recovery and her wish journey to Hawaii. Heath will read from her book at Vermont Bookshop in Middlebury on Saturday, Aug. 11, at 10 a.m. She will also make appearances in Barre, Manchester, Rutland, Stowe and Burlington.
The bookstore tour will launch on August 8 at 12:30 p.m. at Make-A-Wish Vermont in Burlington. At the launch, there will be a book reading, along with free ice cream and chocolate turtles provided by Lake Champlain Chocolates. To reserve free tickets, call (82) 864-9393, ext. 1233.
“Wishes are Medicine!” also features Heath’s pet turtle Bob, who comes along with her through her journey of learning how to walk and read again after her second stroke.
Heath found Bob, who was “smaller than a sand dollar,” on the grass at one of her soccer games when she was younger. Heath’s attachment to Bob for the nine short months she had him is evidence of her passion for turtles that prompted her to want to swim with sea turtles in Hawaii.
“It was so amazing. Every day there was something planned,” Heath said about her trip to Hawaii. There, she went on a helicopter tour and also on a tour of Pearl Harbor before encountering her favorite sea creatures.
Heath, who is a Wish Ambassador for Make-A-Wish Vermont, was asked by CEO James Hathaway if she wanted write a book.
“Heck yeah,” Heath replied to Hathaway’s question.
“When I saw the whole book, I cried,” Heath said. “It showed the whole experience perfectly.”
She hopes that the book will convey that Make-A-Wish is part of the healing process, and a child’s wish does not signify their giving up.
For Heath, her trip to Hawaii allowed her to move forward.
“When I came back from Hawaii, I was ready to start the healing process and accept my situation. I didn’t want to dwell on the past,” Heath said. “I’m still not fully recovered, but I realized that even if I didn’t fully recover it was OK.”
Heath wants readers to know that Make-A-Wish is not a program for just those with terminal illnesses, but also for children with life-threatening medical conditions.
“Make-A-Wish does something important for kids going through something that not a lot of kids go through,” Heath said.
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