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Local charity partners with Calgary school for children’s book project

By: Stacie Snow

  |  Posted: Thursday, Apr 10, 2014 11:33 am

Stephen's Backpacks Society Executive Director Nancy McPhee has partnered with Royal Oak School in Calgary so students can illustrate her yet-to-be released children's book On Eagles' Wings. This cover art was done by Illustrator Barbara Reid.
Stephen's Backpacks Society Executive Director Nancy McPhee has partnered with Royal Oak School in Calgary so students can illustrate her yet-to-be released children's book On Eagles' Wings. This cover art was done by Illustrator Barbara Reid.
Submitted/For Rocky View Publishing

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Organizers of the Airdrie charity Stephen’s Backpacks Society have been taking their message of making homelessness a thing of the past to Calgary and area schools for seven years.

With her yet-to-be released children’s book, On Eagles’ Wings: Stephen Slays the Dragon, Executive Director Nancy McPhee hopes to spread that message even further.

“We are doing something totally unique with this book,” she said. “We are getting the children of Royal Oak School in Calgary to illustrate the book for us. We wanted every child to be able to have the opportunity to share their dreams on our pages.”

The book tells the story of McPhee’s son Stephen, who meets an eagle that helps him free the homeless children in a forest. Stephen challenges at the end of the story for all the children who read his book to look for their passion to make the world a better place.

Stephen asked his parents to help him stop homelessness by creating Stephen’s Backpacks Society in 2006, when he was six years old. Last year, the charity collected 3,000 backpacks full of toys, winter clothing and other resources, and $8,000 worth of school shoes for children in need. Since its inception, the organization has also helped 25 families with Project Hope, in association with local shelters, to help families transition from the shelter to a home.

The group of 30 students in grades 1 to 4 will be chosen by teachers to create the book’s characters out of clay, donated by Kensington Art Supply.

“Nancy has spoken at our school a number of times and the kids just love taking part in the backpacks program so when we started talking about doing the illustrations for the book, I knew this would be something they would love to be a part of,” said Jessica Percival, Grade 1 literary support at Royal Oak School.

“The story really teaches belonging and generosity, which are two things we want to instill in the children.”

McPhee said she wrote the book as a way to share the message of Stephen’s backpacks: “Delivering hope, Changing hearts” to a younger group of children.

“It really has evolved into a vehicle of becoming a voice for children with a dream,” she said.

Percival said she is excited for the students to become a part of something they can look back on and be proud of.

“They will see their work right there in front of them and it will be rewarding to give back to a charity they have been a part of for so long but in a different way,” she said.

McPhee said she hopes the book will be completed by the beginning of July so she can promote it during the Airdrie Canada Day Parade, which Stephen’s Backpack Society volunteers have taken part in for years.

McPhee is also working on an update to her first book Dream Out Loud, a first-hand account chronicling Stephen’s journey with autism that was published in 2008. All net proceeds from the book went towards helping two families off of the street by setting them up with new furniture, dishes, bedding, bathroom and a totally equipped kitchen, clothes, presents and even a Christmas tree.

For more information, visit www.stephensbackpacks.com


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