Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

Local News

September 1, 2009

Transplant recipient writes children’s book

BUNKER HILL — After 76 days in St. Vincent Hospital, waiting for and receiving a heart transplant, Mary Beth Fites wasn’t sure how to explain what she had been through to her grandchildren.

On her last day in the hospital, Oct. 26, 2008, she said she felt God speak to her and she began writing a story from the point of view of her grandchildren.

“I got inspired and I sat down and wrote it,” in about 90 minutes, she said, and called her children’s book “Race Me Grandma.”

Then, she wanted to put it in a nice format with pictures, to give to her grandchildren. She first looked at having it professionally illustrated through a publishing house, but found that was too expensive. Then, she thought of the offenders at the Miami Correctional Facility, where she is an account clerk with the offender trust, which handles the offenders’ internal accounts.

She learned that offenders in the Purposeful Living Units Serve Plus program are required to provide 320 hours of community service to complete their program. She made a request to the superintendent and the administration in the central office of the Indiana Department of Correction.

Administrators agreed offenders could illustrate Fites’ book as long as they did not profit financially. Jeffrey Wines and Nicholas Liss each read her story and provided a complete set of drawings for it.

Fites, a Miami County resident, said she was thrilled to see the finished copy with Wines’ drawings. She has not yet printed the version with Liss’ drawings.

“The pictures are what really draw them to it,” she said.

Wines said the PLUS program chaplain asked him if he wanted to participate, and he’s enjoyed drawing his whole life. He’s found drawing to be a way to pass time, and he also illustrates cards and envelopes.

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