How one determined mom's great idea led to these innovative, one-of-a-kind masterpieces.

This is more than a piece of art.

"The Road to Helping Hands." Photo courtesy of Kimberly Resh, used with permission.


It's a commitment. It's a movement. It's a whole lot of love.

It was created by a group of kind and amazing (and kinda amazing) middle-school students to celebrate their classmate with disabilities.

When Kimberly and Michael Resh welcomed a daughter in 1994, right away they knew something wasn't right.

Sleeping baby, sans ventilator, tubes, and beeping monitors — a newborn experience Michael and Kimberly didn't have with their first daughter, Mikayla. Photo by Morgan/Flickr.

Immediately after her birth, their daughter Mikayla required a ventilator to breathe. Five days later, doctors informed the Reshes that Mikayla had a severe and permanent brain injury.

At best, Mikayla might have cerebral palsy. Worst case? They were told she might be in a vegetative state, or not survive at all. It was a terrifying moment for the first-time parents, but with the diagnosis came a decision.

"All I could control was what I could control," Kimberly told Upworthy. "And I wanted to give her the best life possible."

Thankfully, Mikayla survived, and the Reshes set about creating a great life for their daughter, who is now 21 years old.

Due to her brain injury, Mikayla is non-verbal, deaf, and legally blind. She also uses a wheelchair to get around.

Mikayla today. Photo via Kimberly Resh, used with permission.

When it came to choosing an elementary school, despite Mikayla's significant disabilities, it was important to the Reshes for their daughter to attend their neighborhood school with kids her age.

"The district had never included a child like Mikayla [in a regular classroom] but agreed to give it a try," Kimberly said.

With the help of teacher's aides, assistants, and physical and occupational therapists, Mikayla thrived in her mainstream classroom with her peers. Kimberly even worked with Mikayla's classmates and, in 2006, published a children's book ("Our Friend Mikayla") about having a friend with disabilities.

Before long, Mikayla was in middle school and Kimberly needed a way to introduce her daughter to her new classmates.

She came up with the idea to create a project with Mikayla's art class. The students painted Mikayla's chair wheels and helped roll her across the canvas.

Photo courtesy of Kimberly Resh, used with permission.

After that, students added their own hand prints and tissue paper to create two four-by-six-foot works of art.

Not only did the project provide the opportunity for Mikayla to work with her new classmates, but the resulting projects were stunning. Both still hang in the school today.

The first, shown in full at the top of this piece (the handprints in the shape of a heart), is called "The Road to Helping Hands." The second, shown below, is titled "The Wheels of Friendship."

"The Wheels of Friendship." Photo by Kimberly Resh, used with permission.

After pushing for classroom accessibility for her own daughter, Kimberly founded Mikayla's Voice to encourage classroom inclusivity for kids with disabilities.

"The single most important thing for her and our family has been her inclusion," Kimberly said. "So it only made sense that when we started a nonprofit, it would center around including kids in regular environments."

Since the painting projects had such a positive impact on Mikayla both socially and physically (her aides remarked how relaxed she was after art class), it only made sense for Mikayla's Voice to to start with art.

As part of the nonprofit, each year students at three or four schools across Pennsylvania's Lehigh Valley complete their own paintings, working together to make large works of art for their school.

Kimberly and Mikayla also travel to local schools and community events to lead Wheels of Friendship workshops and demos.

Photo courtesy of Kimberly Resh, used with permission.

The results are bigger than beautiful paintings. For the kids with disabilities, the project is a akin to art therapy, a tool widely used to encourage communication, express emotions, and relieve stress. Additionally, Wheels of Friendship workshops offer a unique starting point for students of all abilities to make art and come together as a team or class.

Photo by Kimberly Resh, used with permission.

By teaching children about disability, empathy, kindness, and teamwork, Kimberly hopes they'll serve as advocates for inclusion.

"If you want to create a cultural change, you have to start with the kids," she said.

"Because these are the people who in 25 years are gonna be the doctors, are gonna be the teachers, are gonna be the parents teaching their own children."

Children create a work of art at Peepsfest. Photo courtesy of ArtsQuest, used with permission.

The Wheels of Friendship paintings are now on display to the public.

To make it happen, Mikayla's Voice teamed up with ArtsQuest, a local nonprofit that promotes art and cultural education. Because the large canvasses hang at schools around the Northeast, the general public often doesn't have a chance to see the beautiful works in person.

For the first time, high-resolution digital reprints are being displayed at the Banana Factory, a gallery and arts space in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania.

It's part of a larger initiative, "Arts & Access," which was organized by the local Lehigh Valley Arts Council to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the Americans With Disabilities Act.

"The Keys to Friendship." Photo by Kimberly Resh, used with permission.

"More than 30 different arts and cultural organizations in our area have teamed up with local social service agencies to offer exhibits, performances, exhibitions, film screenings and more," said Stacie Brennan, senior director of visual arts for ArtsQuest. "[All] with the goal of expanding access for people with disabilities and their families and friends."

It's a fitting honor for Mikayla and Kimberly, who have dedicated much of their lives to encouraging inclusivity.

Mikayla, now 21, will finish her formal education this summer and is already taking painting classes at the community college. She also volunteers in the art room at her former middle school, where the work of art she created with her classmates still hangs.

Though she's never said a word, the work Mikayla has done to teach, inspire, and connect kids of all abilities speaks volumes to her heart and character.

It's no wonder Kimberly smiles through a few happy tears when she thinks about it.

"I'm so proud of Mikayla, and I'm so proud to be her Mom."

Mikayla and her mom, Kimberly. Photo via Kimberly Resh, used with permission.

True
Back Market

Between the new normal that is working from home and e-learning for students of all ages, having functional electronic devices is extremely important. But that doesn't mean needing to run out and buy the latest and greatest model. In fact, this cycle of constantly upgrading our devices to keep up with the newest technology is an incredibly dangerous habit.

The amount of e-waste we produce each year is growing at an increasing rate, and the improper treatment and disposal of this waste is harmful to both human health and the planet.

So what's the solution? While no one expects you to stop purchasing new phones, laptops, and other devices, what you can do is consider where you're purchasing them from and how often in order to help improve the planet for future generations.

Keep Reading Show less
via Tom Ward / Instagram

Artist Tom Ward has used his incredible illustration techniques to give us some new perspective on modern life through popular Disney characters. "Disney characters are so iconic that I thought transporting them to our modern world could help us see it through new eyes," he told The Metro.

Tom says he wanted to bring to life "the times we live in and communicate topical issues in a relatable way."

In Ward's "Alt Disney" series, Prince Charming and Pinocchio have fallen victim to smart phone addiction. Ariel is living in a polluted ocean, and Simba and Baloo have been abused by humans.

Keep Reading Show less
True
Back Market

Between the new normal that is working from home and e-learning for students of all ages, having functional electronic devices is extremely important. But that doesn't mean needing to run out and buy the latest and greatest model. In fact, this cycle of constantly upgrading our devices to keep up with the newest technology is an incredibly dangerous habit.

The amount of e-waste we produce each year is growing at an increasing rate, and the improper treatment and disposal of this waste is harmful to both human health and the planet.

So what's the solution? While no one expects you to stop purchasing new phones, laptops, and other devices, what you can do is consider where you're purchasing them from and how often in order to help improve the planet for future generations.

Keep Reading Show less

It sounds like a ridiculous, sensationalist headline, but it's real. In Cheshire County, New Hampshire, a transsexual, anarchist Satanist has won the GOP nomination for county sheriff. Aria DiMezzo, who refers to herself as a "She-Male" and whose campaign motto was "F*** the Police," ran as a Republican in the primary. Though she ran unopposed on the ballot, according to Fox News, she anticipated that she would lose to a write-in candidate. Instead, 4,211 voters filled in the bubble next to her name, making her the official Republican candidate for county sheriff.

DiMezzo is clear about why she ran—to show how "clueless the average voter is" and to prove that "the system is utterly and hopelessly broken"—stances that her win only serves to reinforce.

In a blog post published on Friday, DiMezzo explained how she had never tried to hide who she was and that anyone could have looked her up to see what she was about, in addition to pointing out that those who are angry with her have no one to blame but themselves:

Keep Reading Show less

Schools often have to walk a fine line when it comes to parental complaints. Diverse backgrounds, beliefs, and preferences for what kids see and hear will always mean that schools can't please everyone all the time, so educators have to discern what's best for the whole, broad spectrum of kids in their care.

Sometimes, what's best is hard to discern. Sometimes it's absolutely not.

Such was the case this week when a parent at a St. Louis elementary school complained in a Facebook group about a book that was read to her 7-year-old. The parent wrote:

"Anyone else check out the read a loud book on Canvas for 2nd grade today? Ron's Big Mission was the book that was read out loud to my 7 year old. I caught this after she watched it bc I was working with my 3rd grader. I have called my daughters school. Parents, we have to preview what we are letting the kids see on there."

Keep Reading Show less