Creating inclusion

Author Hendricks visits with locals about short story

—Daily Freeman-Journal photo by Adri Sietstra Jean Kayser checks out “Nick’s Boat” with the young man who inspired the short story, Nick Seamonds, on Monday afternoon at Kendall Young Library. Author of “Nick’s Boat”, Jo Ann Hendricks, was also present to speak with community members during the meet and greet event Monday afternoon.

Community members gathered at Kendall Young Library Monday afternoon to meet “Nick’s Boat” author Jo Ann Hendricks. The short story revolves around the inclusion of Webster City resident Nick Seamonds. Seamonds, who has cerebral palsy, is the heart and inspiration of the short story. He was also present to sign copies.

Due to cerebral palsy, Seamonds, 37, is confined to a wheelchair. 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.

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.

Hendricks chose to center the book around the events that gave Nick a chance to be included in social outings and gatherings. The cabin and boat at Lake Cornelia have been a special place for Nick, his friends and family since they were established.

“The cabin is a true story,” Hendricks said. “That was a part of this family’s history. It’s really about going to the lake and it’s about accommodation and inclusion.”

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.

“Nick’s Boat” is available online at Amazon for $9.99. All of the proceeds go to Nick and his medical care.

“I think Nick is thrilled about it,” Hendricks said.

Hendricks, a family friend of the Seamonds family, was inspired to write the book for Nick about his favorite place to be. Hendricks 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 has known Nick his whole life. She and his mother, Maureen 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.”

“I knew Nick before he was even born,” Hendricks said.

“When he was born there wasn’t a lot of healthcare for kids like Nick – kids with disabilities – that’s an understatement. There were no toys and very few services,” said Hendricks.

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.

“His family decided early on that Nick needed to be at the center of the family so he would not be marginalized,” said Hendricks. “So when they bought things, they would call it “Nick’s boat” or “Nick’s cabin” so that the kids would know the activity had to include Nick. It was an early example of inclusion.”

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.

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

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.

“I admire him just so much for everything he’s gone through,” Hendricks said. “But also the impact he’s had on other kids his age and community members.”