“Nick’s Boat” sails to KYL

Author Jo Ann Hendricks to discuss published work about local man Monday

—Daily Freeman-Journal photo by Adri Sietstra Don and Mo Seamonds read “Nick’s Boat” with their son, Nick. Author of “Nick’s Boat”, Jo Ann Hendricks will be at Kendall Young Library on Monday, Oct. 9 at 2 p.m. to discuss this book with the public.

Jo Ann Hendricks describes Nick Seamonds as “one awesome guy.” Seamonds, 37, has cerebral palsy and is confined to a wheelchair. Thanks to efforts by his family and friends, an accessible cabin at Lake Cornelia offers enjoyment and inclusion and gives Nick the ability to navigate his wheelchair around the space and enjoy the company of everyone there.

In honor of Seamonds, Hendricks wrote and published “Nick’s Boat”. Hendricks, a family friend of the Seamonds family, was inspired to write a book for Nick about his favorite place to be. Hendricks, author and illustrator of “Nick’s Boat”, said the title has been in the works for years. Hendricks has spent lots of time with Nick and his family at the cabin.

Hendricks will be at Kendall Young Library on Monday, Oct. 9 at 2 p.m. to discuss her work. The public is invited to attend the free event.

“I like to write and draw,” said Hendricks. “I just thought it was a good story and somebody had to write it down and it seemed to me it had to be me. He’s one of the family.”

Hendricks has known Nick his whole life. She and Seamonds, are artists and friends. They met right before Nick was born in 1979. Hendricks and Seamonds started the Produce Station and Pottery together in Webster City years ago.

“Maureen and I are both artists so we immediately hit it off,” said Hendricks. “We’ve been friends and co-artists ever since.”

“We’ve been friends forever,” said Maureen Seamonds. “It’s really sweet to have a friend that cares that much. She and Nick, regardless of our relationship, she is Nick’s friend.”

Hendricks nephew, Camden, was able to get the book published in May through Blue Star Publishing. The book is an 8 ½ by 11 softcover story and spans 24 pages.

“I think Nick is thrilled,” Hendricks said.

His parents, Don and Maureen Seamonds, built the cabin years ago as a means for their family to spend time together and provide more social opportunities for Nick.

Cerebral palsy is a disorder of movement, muscle tone or posture that is caused by damage that occurs to the immature, developing brain, most often before birth, according to the Mayo Clinic website.

Nick, who lives at the Elm Street House, communicates mainly through smiles, change of breathe or gesture, pointing with his eyes and yes or no responses. According to his mom, Nick is very social and enjoys being around and meeting new people.

“The thing with the cabin is that it would be difficult for us to go places, but it’s really easy to have people come to us,” said Maureen Seamonds. “It’s always happy and it’s always good.”

First the Seamonds rented an old cabin on the lake. As Nick got older they began searching for a more accessible space. Unable to find one, they decided to build their own cabin from the ground up.

Friends and family frequent the cabin during the summer months. Thanks to the cabin, Nick is able to form and maintain a number of relationships, including a friendship with Hendricks.

The Seamonds have always been focused on making sure that family gatherings were inclusive for everyone.

“From the beginning, instead of putting Nick separate and putting him outside of the family, he became the center of the family,” said Hendricks, “and that’s how they built their family with inclusion.”

“Nick is different, so they decided that they had to put him at the center of the family and wherever Nick would be, he would be at the center,” said Hendricks. “That way people would always be around him. It was a great way to make sure Nick was a part.”

Nick’s favorite part about visiting the lake cabin is getting to ride on the boat. He enjoys going fast on the water with friends and family.

“Everything that I say in the book is based on fact,” said Hendricks. “They’re all happy on that lake. Nick could ride around on that lake for 24 hours a day.”

“We’ve had all sorts of celebrations at the cabin and continue to do so,” Maureen Seamonds said. “It’s still his favorite place to go.”

Thanks to the cabin’s accessibility, Nick has been able to bring his friends up to the lake to hang out.

“People can just be together and enjoy life without complication. It’s really been a very special place in our lives,” Seamonds said.

Outside of spending time at the lake, Nick enjoys shopping, swimming, being read to, listening to music and having bonfires with his Elm Street roommates.