She loves her sister and it shows.
Briley Rossiter,12, is gaining national recognition and acclaim for her book, Born An Angel. The tome sweetly chronicles her relationship with her nine-year-old sister, Ainsley, who has infantile neuraxonal dystrophy (INAD). This rare, incurable ailment restricts Ainsley to a wheelchair. Death generally occurs between the ages of five to 10, according to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke.
Although Ainsley has suffered a progressive loss of physical and mental abilities, INAD has failed to place limitations on the unshakable bond between the two girls.
A sisterhood that once included tea parties and playing together with dollies is now lovingly defined by the book that highlights the sixteen road races in which the girls have participated in Virginia Beach and across the country. On tracks usually punctuated with able-bodied runners, Briley runs along while proudly pushing Ainsley in a special jogger chair. The girls have experienced road races together ranging from three to five miles. In Born An Angel, Briley writes about those races and her family’s life with Ainsley.
Briley, a student in the International Baccalaureate Middle Years Program (MYP) at Plaza Middle School, said she wrote the book in three months at the beginning of last school year to “share the message of inclusion of people who have disabilities with other students.” While her sister is unable to move and communicate, Briley said “on the inside she is just like us. On the inside, we are the same sisters.”
Since the book debuted in May, Born An Angel, has sold more than 1,000 copies. Briley has read portions of the Born An Angel at book signings held as far away as Texas. At the end of last school year, she read part of the book at Plaza Middle and Centerville Elementary where Ainsely and the girls’ brother, Kamden, 8, are enrolled. Both school libraries received donated copies of the book, as it is Briley’s goal to see her book in every school in America.
For people with disabilities and their families, Born An Angel “has given them hope, and they know they are not alone,” Briley said. “The book gives them ideas on what they can do.”
Born An Angel teaches the public about Ainsely’s ailment. Briley included a glossary of medical terms regarding INAD in the book, primarily for the benefit of young readers.
Proceeds from the sale of the book support the Ainsley’s Angels of America Foundation, which helps pay for jogger chairs and other equipment to allow children with disabilities to participate in road races and similar athletic events in their communities.
For Marine Major Kim Rossiter and Lori Rossiter, words can’t describe the level of pride they have in seeing their daughters thrive and overcome challenges by living as sisters.
“Their inspiring example reinforces the idea that a sibling bond and love is un-breakable,” Major Rossiter said. “Ainsley’s dystrophy (INAD) has progressed to the point of global paralysis, leaving her unable to communicate, but she has managed to inspire the creation of multiple 501c3 public charities in her honor across the United States, the Ainsley’s Angels of America Foundation, and of course, the writing of a children’s book by her sister, Briley.”
Over the front door of the Rossiter house hangs a sign with the quote: ”Life is not measured by the number of breaths you take, but by the moments that take your breath away. ” The concept of living life to the fullest is embodied in this quote and its impact has been so strong on Briley that she decided to include it on the first page of her book, opposite the preface. As for Ainsley, these days the impact of her progressive dystrophy is taking its toll and her smiles are few and far between. When she does smile though, her family rushes to capture and reflect on the moment.
At Plaza Middle where she attends MYP, Briley has earned great admiration from Jennifer Krzewinski, the academy’s coordinator. “MYP aims to develop inquiring, knowledgeable, and caring young people who help to create a better and more peaceful world through intercultural understanding and respect,” Krzewinski said. “Briley epitomizes the true essence of an MYP student. We are so proud of her accomplishments over the past year and a half with writing, having directed illustration and publishing the extraordinary story of her family overcoming the obstacles of her sister’s rare genetic disease. She is a true inspiration and we look forward to what amazing things she will accomplish next.”
But what is next for Briley?
“I want to inspire people. I want to continue doing what I know is right, and inspire others to do the same,” Briley said. “I want to write another book in the near future, so that I am able to continue inspiring people of all ages.”
Compass Keeper Q&A:
What is your favorite book?
The Hunger Games Trilogy.
What are your favorite movies?
Sole Surfer and Dolphin Tale
What is your favorite food?
What is your pet peeve?
My number one pet peeve is when people smack or chew with their mouths open.
What would be your perfect day?
On my perfect day, I would be at the beach surrounded by friends and family. Ainsley would be playing in the sand and splashing in the waves, she wouldn’t be disabled. No one would be upset or stressed. We would have a BBQ on the beach and then watch fireworks. For one day, all would be “normal” in my family.
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