Not many Greenhill students are also published authors—which is an impressive feat alone; but perhaps even more compelling is the reason senior Natalie Gonchar wrote her first children’s book, Mr. Gringle's Magic Wheelchair.
A first-generation American with Russian origins, Natalie has volunteered with disabled kids living in orphanages in Russia and Ukraine. She noticed that many stories and portrayals of disabled children focus on what kids can’t do, instead of what they can do.
Natalie set about to change that.
“We all want to identify with characters in the books we read and shows we watch. I wanted these kids to feel like they are included in all types of media,” says Natalie. “I want them to realize, despite any disabilities or setbacks, that there are so many things they CAN do, like stand up for themselves and be strong.”
The story starts with Lisa Dart, a girl who is in a wheelchair, but then reveals a problem with bullies. We learn that the true challenge to overcome has nothing to do with her inability to walk; but rather, her other abilities.
According to one of her teachers, Darryn Sandler '95, “I learned about this when Natalie wanted to make a donation to the Junior Mavs, a group of kids in wheelchairs that play basketball. Natalie was kind enough to personally write a note in a copy of her book to give to each kid on the team.” Mr. Sandler goes on to say, “Natalie is one of the kindest students on our campus, and this book and the idea behind it, speaks volumes to what kind of person she is.”
Natalie dedicates the book to her friends at the Dmitrov orphanage and to “all the amazing kids with unlimited abilities who inspire [her] daily.”