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The writing of Jenny Grech McCray ’07 (right) and the artwork of Jessica Rippel Donehue ’02 come together in the sisters’ books for children affected by cancer.

Jo McCulty

Books inspire hope, bravery in kids facing illness

Written to honor a best friend, sisters’ books help children understand a diagnosis of cancer.

The pages of HATventures of Hope spring to life for 3-year-old Jordan Hertzig, just as author JennyGrech McCray ’07 intended.

The book was inspired by Jordan’s aunt and McCray’s best friend, Lindsay Wahl Giannobile ’04, who died of breast cancer in 2016. She was 33. Giannobile’s sister, Samantha Wahl Hertzig, began reading Jordan the book to preserve the youngster’s memory of Aunt Lindsay.

“Jordan still picks out the book from the others and insists that I read it to her. She sees Lindsay in the characters on every page and reminds me when I miss a page,” Hertzig says. “Lindsay and Jordan had a special relationship.”

Matt Stoessner

HATventures of Hope led to a second children’s book by McCray, Braving the Storm, also about coping with cancer and dedicated to Giannobile.

“My kids got me thinking about the bond between mother and child,” says McCray, the mother of 4- and 7-year-olds. “The books were just a way to explain a delicate subject like cancer to a child. I also knew there was a gap in the literature for this kind of material.”

McCray recruited her sister, Jessica Rippel Donehue ’02, to illustrate her storytelling.

“Doing a [children’s] book together was something we talked about since we were kids,” says Donehue, who has three children, ages 7, 9 and 12. “Lindsay’s diagnosis turned Jenny’s world upside down and gave us the inspiration to do it.”

The books "Hatventures of Hope" and "Braving the Storm" by Jenny McCray and Jessica Donehue

Jo McCulty

The sisters are now working on a third children’s book, about bullying.

“Many moms have reached out to me and thanked me for writing the books,” McCray says. “One mom said her son loves to read the books because it makes him feel normal.”

The books are available through HATventuresofhope.com and Amazon.

About the author

Dennis Fiely

Dennis Fiely is a freelance writer and former reporter with The Columbus Dispatch.