Sometimes it just takes one person to inspire you to chase your dreams.
That was the case for Jill Maglio-Ryan.
Born in Sheffield, IL, Jill was a hairdresser who owned and operated a salon out of her home. When she became pregnant and gave birth to her daughter, Meghann (or Meghann Marie as her mom called her), working from home made things a lot easier. However, when Meghann was diagnosed with Cerebral Palsy at 11 months old, Jill realized even more how incredibly grateful she was for her ability to work her own hours and be available to spend time with her daughter.
In their community, Meghann was the only person with a disability, and as a 24 year old, Jill knew she needed to make sure her daughter received services that would help her live independently. Shortly after they received the diagnosis, Meghann began receiving services from Easterseals, including physical therapy, occupational therapy and speech therapy. While working on her fine motor skills, Meghann discovered a love of puzzles. In fact, after a few years it became hard for anyone to give her a puzzle that she did not already have. She also loved swimming, and enjoyed spending time socializing with clients in her mom’s salon.
“She had a really good personality, and a beautiful smile. She was so happy and content. She had a good life with a lot of friends, and was spoiled rotten in my salon by people,” shared Jill.
In their town, Meghann raised a lot of awareness for people with disabilities.
“[People in our town] didn’t realize what CP or a disability was and she made it okay. She made people feel like it was okay to approach her, kids especially. She raised a lot of awareness without even really knowing she was doing it,” stated Jill.
After Meghann graduated from high school, Jill decided to get her Associate’s degree in Liberal Arts from Blackhawk College.
Jill shares that “writing was something I always thought about doing, but it wasn’t until the first time I took [Meghann] to the Sheffield Library I realized there weren’t many books about children with special needs.”
She kept this idea in the back of her head and went on, busy with life and work. When she went back to school, she started writing a blog and talking about her experiences with Meghann to give people an idea of what their everyday looked like.
Meghann passed away on May 24, 2018, and Jill states that this loss inspired her more than ever to write about people who make their dreams come true regardless of differing abilities.
Currently, Jill has two books published: Meggeriffic: Cuz, I Can and Meggeriffic: The Girl with Gills.
“I knew I wanted to write a story about Meg and that I wanted it to be a book that kids could read regardless of whether or not they had a disability. To show kids that it doesn’t matter what you can’t do, but that we all have dreams. It’s about trying your best and trying to find that dream and go for it,” shared Jill.
Jill currently has two more books in the works – one scheduled to be release around Christmas of this year on the topic of bullying, and another Meggeriffic for 2021 all about adventure.
She shares that for her family, Easterseals helped Meghann gain the skills she needed to be independent and chase her own adventures.
“All the services Easterseals offers are one step closer for children with differing abilities to become independent. The long-term effect of donating to Easterseals now and investing in our children with differing abilities at a young age is gonna pay off for them in the long run,” shared Jill.
To learn more about Jill and Meggeriffic, you can follow her Facebook page, her blog and her author’s Amazon page.
We are so thankful to Jill for sharing her story, and for using her talents and creativity to spread awareness of those with differing abilities. She is truly helping to create a world where all children are 100% Included, 100% Empowered.