From Sitting to Flying: “How do you feel when you see me being in a wheelchair?”


When I was four years old, I asked my mom why I was in a wheelchair.

“Everyone has a magical tree inside of them called the spine that has magical leaves called nerves that help you move your arms and legs, and I was missing some of my magical leaves.”

She would continue by saying that even though I do not have all of my magical leaves I can still do so many wonderful things.

For 20 years I had no idea what those “wonderful things” were until one day at the pool a little boy said he felt sorry for me as I sat on the steps not swimming. I decided right then and there that I would stop watching the world and start participating in it. That is when I came to the realization that I wanted to write a children’s book titled The Adventures of KatGirl.

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Katherine Magnoli, Author of The Adventures of KatGirl

This did not happen overnight. I had to do a lot of thinking of how I was going to accomplish this. Then I remembered my mom’s story about the magical tree. I realized this was the time for me to figure out what my talents actually are. I thought and thought, and then it dawned on me, I would write! Writing had always been something that I enjoyed doing and was told I did exceptionally well.

Once I realized that I wanted to write, I knew instantly what the story was going to be about.  I knew because I had a plan on what it was I wanted the story to accomplish which was to educate and entertain children on the subject of disability. Once the goal was set in place, the topic of the story just flowed out of me.

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This became easy because I knew I wanted it to entertain and more importantly educate, so I began with the name: Adventures of KatGirl. My stories are about a super hero in a wheelchair who helps kids who are being bullied.

I remember thinking immediately after coming up with the concept that I was going to be on the New York Times Best Sellers List and Oprah, even before I got one word on the page. I smiled and started writing; I wrote so much that 18 hours later I emerged from my room with 18 pages of what I thought was brilliant writing. However, that brilliant writing was soon to be edited down to 11 pages. This was the first of many steps towards making the book.  The others included getting a team of people who were willing to help put this story together as a book.

My team consisted of family and friends including; my mother as kind of my manager that oversaw every little thing. Then came my Grandmother friends was my publisher. Lastly, there was a man named Scott D’Antuono who graciously accepted the task of illustrating. This process took me about a year and a half to do but when I got the call that the books were done all the disagreements of creative differences seemed to disappear.  All the nights spent trying to explain to each person involved exactly how I envisioned the story line and illustrations all melted away when that moment arrived.

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Katherine Magnoli at the Family Cafe event

No moment could ever compare to when I got the call that the books had finally arrived and rushed over to my grandmother’s so we could all read it together.  I remember opening the door to her apartment and my mouth dropping as I saw all the boxes scattered around her living room.   I rolled over to one and opened with the same eagerness and anticipation like a kid on Christmas morning. I then saw in big Black Letters The Adventures of KatGirl written by Katherine Magnoli; I started crying as I grabbed one from a box that sat on her coffee table. I hugged it just like a kid opening up a present and seeing that a puppy awaited them in the box with a shiny red bow on it.  I had finally done it after years of not knowing what my special talent was I embraced my writing and after many hours, days and months I wrote a story that has not only changed my life but has changed the lives of so many children who have read it.

I remember my very first event I ever did. I wheeled into a classroom of about 20 children and all eyes were on me. I smiled and waved, and they did wave back without the smile and with a look of confusion.  I took that as a cue to then ask them a question. That is now a part of all of my presentations. The question I am referring to is “How do you feel when you see me in a wheelchair”.  I then get bombarded with the same responses over and over of “I feel sad.”  I also hear the five words that started it all “I feel sorry for you.”  I remember at that first event feeling sad to know that so many children felt in some form of a negative way towards my using a wheelchair.

However, I did not respond to that, I just picked up my book and began reading. I remember looking at the kid’s faces as I read different parts of the story and seeing their faces change from confusion to happiness when KatGirl’s chair began to fly. 

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When the story was complete, I asked the question again “How do you feel when you see me being in a wheelchair?” Now with all their faces lit up with smiles from ear to ear they said “You are soooooo cool! Does your chair fly too?” I knew right then and there that I had not only found my talent after 20 years of searching, but I had found my purpose.

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Katherine Magnoli

Katherine was born with Spina Bifida, that affected her spine but not her mind. She is the author of a series of children’s books titled “The Adventures of KatGirl”. Her stories are about a super hero in a wheelchair that helps kids who are being bullied. She feels this is the best way to educate and entertain about disability and acceptance and spreads this message by sharing her stories with kids of all ages.

Katherine is also the co-host of a weekly online radio show called “Brain Matter” with Dr. Robert Gottesman that interviews people with disabilities who accomplish extraordinary things. They have had a variety of guests including those working to ensure that people abide by the ADA.

Katherine’s was recently crowned Ms. Wheelchair Florida 2017. Her platform of Youbilities, speaks on focusing on our abilities instead of our disabilities. She is tackling the task of getting this message to the masses through educating children about people throughout history who have lived or are living with disability whom have accomplished great things. She refers to this educational plan as the Youbilities Program.

She also meets with political figures advocating for accessibility. In her free time, Katherine loves going to concerts and the beach, she particularly likes adaptive surfing. She now considers it one of her many Youbilities.

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