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One boy’s inspiring run delivers a happy story

Scores of young people lace up their sneakers each year to run in the Telford Electric Magic Mile. But when six-year-old Dakari Saunders managed to run 200 metres in this year’s race it brought some onlookers to tears.

Dakari has cerebral palsy and faces challenges when walking, let alone running.

Parents Pete and Annesa Saunders said it was an emotional and proud experience for them watching Dakari take part in the event. Their son’s determination even inspired them to create their first children’s book.

‘Happy’s Best Day Ever’ tells the story of a sea turtle named ‘Happy’ with damaged flippers who pushes himself to succeed in a race. It was written by Mr Saunders, who is the author of a popular fatherhood blog, Razors and Diapers; while the colourful illustrations were created by Mrs Saunders.

The couple said they hope the book helps to instil courage, perseverance, and a positive attitude in young children. It also serves to remind adults that all children have the potential to succeed when given the right support and encouragement.

“Dakari is the inspiration for the entire story and for the main character ‘Happy’ because that is what his name means ‘happiness,’” Mr Saunders said.

Initially when a note came home for children to sign up for the race, Mr Saunders said they didn’t pay much attention to it because of Dakari’s condition.

Then after reading a book with his son about American athlete Wilma Rudolph, who battled through bouts of childhood polio to compete in the Olympic Games, Dakari expressed an interest in taking part in the event.

“On the day of the race it was inspiring to Annesa and I that he decided to do it despite everything,” Mr Saunders said.

“It was captured on the news as well and people were telling us on the road how it made them cry.

“We believe that all kids, no matter what, can succeed. This book is an opportunity for us to let children know that and to remind parents they have a right to encourage their kids to do whatever they want to do, even if everything is stacked against them.”

Mr Saunders said parents with special needs children should have “laser-like focus” when it comes to helping their children experience and explore their goals.

The 32-page book was very much “a family venture”, he added.

Mrs Saunders was able to tap back into a passion she had for drawing back in her school days. She spent upwards of five hours creating each picture on her iPad’s ‘Procreate’ app to illustrate the special story.

Her husband’s job of writing came quite naturally after spending time reading at Dakari’s school each week; the experience gave him a taste of what excites children about reading.

They are hoping the book will be part of a series and are constantly finding inspiration in things Dakari says or does.

“Creating children’s stories, it opens your mind to be more fun and explore and it brings more joy to life,” Mrs Saunders said.

‘Happy’s Best Day Ever’ will be available for $16.95 at Brown and Co, Bermuda Book Store, Lindo’s in Devonshire and at the Bermuda Aquarium, Museum and Zoo. It is also available online at amazon.com.

The couple will be on hand for a book signing at Brown and Co on Saturday from 12.30pm until 2pm.

An inspiring story: Pete and Annesa Saunders, the parents of Dakari (pictured right), have created a children's book called 'Happy's Best Day Ever' about one special sea turtle who beat the odds to take part in a race. The book was inspired by Dakari’s participation in the Telford Electric Magic Mile. Despite having cerebral palsy, Dakari managed to run 200 metres of the race.

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Published May 28, 2013 at 9:00 am (Updated May 27, 2013 at 4:31 pm)

One boy’s inspiring run delivers a happy story

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