Kellie Greenwald smiles in delight.
"I'm famous," she says.
Greenwald, 29, a resident of The Cedars in Ross, is enjoying her day in the sun - as author and illustrator of "Kellie's Book," the story of her life with Down syndrome.
The book's subtitle is "The Art of the Possible," and her mom Carla and dad Hank Greenwald, retired play-by-play announcer for the San Francisco Giants, say it is a testimony to how far such a person can go, given early treatment.
Syracuse professor of education Corinne Smith calls Kellie Greenwald's book "a celebration of life - a reflection of life's joys from the perspective of a young woman with Down syndrome."
And joyous it is. Greenwald has registered her happiest moments in neatly writtenparagraphs and brightly colorful Prisma-Color paintings. In one painting, she is playing baseball at College of Marin. "I like playing with my friends." In another, she is at her high school prom: "I feel pretty in my new dress and my flowers."
"I'm very happy I wrote this book," says Greenwald, face wreathed in smiles.
The book was created with guidance from her art teacher, Susan Vickery, at the Victory Center for Arts and Communications in Ross where Greenwald goes every weekday for classes. "Kellie is a total colorist," Vickery said. "She needed no coaching at all in terms of colors or of composition. She had a very natural talent."
The Victory Center is operated by The Cedars, which began in 1919 as a school for the mentally retarded and grew into an institution serving developmentally disabled with a variety of programs. Greenwald lives at a Cedars residence, John Peterson Hall.
The book took more than two years to complete. When her dad wrote his own autobiography, "This Copyrighted Broadcast," in 1999, she wanted to write one, too. "Now that the book is out, I'm thrilled," he said. A special moment was seeing it listed on Amazon.com, "and there was Kellie, with all the other authors."
"I'm a very proud mother," says Carla.
Vickery praises Kellie Greenwald for her tenacity in completing the book. "She was very determined to do it right."
It was published by Rayve Productions in Windsor, owned by Norman and Barbara Ray. Barbara Ray hopes Greenwald'sbook will help educate readers about those who have Down syndrome. Her grandchildren, for instance, "didn't know they were real people."
The book was printed - full color - in Hong Kong and costs $24.95. It can be ordered at any bookstore. Her parents hope to place it in schools. Part of the proceeds will go to the Victory Center.
Seventeen days after her birth in San Francisco, Greenwald's mother took her to the Easter Seals Society where she was enrolled in physical therapy, occupationaltherapy and speech classes. She attended the Living and Learning Center in San Francisco as a small child, and learned sign language, reading and writing from a speech therapist provided by the Elks Club of California and Hawaii.
She was mainstreamed through elementary and high school, and lived at home until she was 18. Thereafter, she lived in a group home in Corte Madera, operated by Marin Association for Retarded Citizens, now called Lifehouse. She took special classes at College of Marin, and received a certificate of graduation in May 2000.
For a time she worked at Longs Drug Store in San Anselmo and at Pacific Cafe in Kentfield, folding napkins and dusting tables.
Meanwhile, she traveled often to baseball games with her dad - he also worked for the New York Yankees and the Oakland A's - and to spring training with the Giants. She became an inveterate fan, and counts players and broadcasters among her closest friends.
Other people know how to "work a room," says her dad. "She knew how to work a ballpark."
Former Giants outfielder Chili Davis is her favorite ballplayer: He held her in his arms when she was a baby. Tom Breneman, who broadcasts for the Cincinatti Reds, is her "first love."
Greenwald still spends big chunks of time with her family, and goes with them each year to Florida, where they have a second home. She also visits her brother Doug, a broadcaster for the Fresno Grizzlies, a Triple A farm club for the Giants. "I put the headset on and we do an interview."
Doug has been "very good with her," says father Hank. "When they were young, he would needle her, and her need to respond really helped her develop speech." He emphasizes the need for early stimulation and training. "Our message to parents of Down syndrome children - get them into a program as early as possible."
Though Kellie Greenwald confesses to moments of sadness and frustration, she considers herself fortunate, enjoying her new independence as a resident of The Cedars, with her own brightly furnished room, a new set of friends, her own computer, her guitar. "I love playing very softly for my friends."
Meanwhille, she enjoys the whirl of book signings. She is scheduled to sign at 2 p.m. Nov. 17 at Borders in San Rafael.
"I'm famous," she reiterates. "I'm very smart."
"And very modest," says her father, smiling broadly.
-- Marin Independent
Contact Beth Ashley via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org