How cool would it be to Google yourself at age 14 and see your name listed as a published illustrator?
A year ago, Taylor Galaska of Sharon never dreamed he would be able to do that. He was asked to create pictures for a book dedicated to the 20 children and six teachers who died in the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School, Newtown, Conn., on Dec. 14, 2012.
Galaska’s collaboration with “The Little Lambs and the Very Special Mission” by Rhonda Paglia of Hermitage is just one of the ripple effects that has changed his life since he designed T-shirts in honor of the victims of the shooting.
Paglia said the idea for the book came to her during her prayers shortly after the massacre. The message conveyed in the book is that if we follow the “Be Attitude” messages given to the little lambs by God, the world would be a better place.
“The book would never have been completed without Taylor’s help and passion for the project,” Paglia said.
Paglia, a retired teacher and Hermitage city commissioner, contacted Galaska after she found out about the T-shirts he designed with profits donated to the Sandy Hook Elementary library.
For the book, Galaska drew the illustration with God’s hands holding little lambs on the front cover, the great shepherd, and the angels in charge. Each angel was personalized to resemble one of the six teachers who died.
“He is a very talented artist and he has such a generous heart,” Paglia said. “I am honored to know him and that he spent the time to illustrate the book.”
Galaska’s work is being seen across the United States since the book is registered with the Library of Congress, with him listed as an illustrator.
Since the book came out, Taylor been involved in many activities designed to spread its message.
He has taken part in book signings at The Women’s Expo at the Shenango Valley Mall, Hermitage; in Gallery 29, Sharon; and at the Arts Alive event at the James E. Winner Jr. Arts and Cultural Center in Sharon.
He had to make sure he had a unique signature when he was asked to attend book signings with Paglia. He writes the “T” in his first name as a cross and after his name he adds, “God Bless.”
“It just blew me away that a 14-year-old said ‘yes’ to illustrating the book, and attended book signings,” Paglia said. “Any other kid his age would probably be home watching television or playing video games.
“He’s such a role model.”
In the past year, the T-shirts Galaska designed have generated more than $2,000 in profits.
The shirts are green with an angel holding hands with a small child wearing a back pack. On the back are three lines of text taken from the song, “Blest Are They”: “Blest are they, the pure of heart, for they shall see God! Blest are they, full of sorrow, they shall be consoled. Blest are they who seek peace; they are children God.”
“The idea for the three lines on the back is: one for the victims, one for the survivors, and one for the rest of us,” said Taylor. “The last line was chosen to create awareness for school safety and to remember the victims and their families.”
Galaska is involved in many clubs and events at Kennedy Catholic High School in Hermitage, where he is a freshman. In February, he was awarded the St. Francis of Assisi Award, presented to students who are viewed as peacemakers.
“I wish I could clone Taylor,” said Victoria Wagner, Kennedy Catholic middle school principal. “Rarely at this age do you have someone consistently thinking of others. He is always thinking of ways to raise awareness.”
An active volunteer at St. Joseph Church in Sharon, he was awarded the Appreciation Award in recognition of Outstanding Service to the Parish Family.
He attended the “March for Life” rally Jan. 25 in Washington, D.C., and was invited to Pennsylvania Sen. Robert P. Casey’s office and awarded a certificate of thanks.
“God did not put Taylor on this earth to be ordinary,” said his mother, Melissa Galaska. “He lives his life according to the motto: ‘If you are the only representative of Jesus in the world, would you be able to be an example of His teachings?’ ”
Amazon.com summarizes “The Little Lambs and The Very Special Mission”: “God asks a field full of sweet, playful little lambs to help Him with a very important mission. He tells them that the people of earth have forgotten to be loving and kind to each other. God needs their help to remind the people of earth how much he loves them. With the little lambs’ help, the world becomes a better place.”
Paglia donates profits from the sale of the book to “The Angels in Charge” scholarship fund for graduating seniors from the Newtown School District who go on to study elementary education.
The first recipient was awarded $2,500 and already $2,000 has been saved for the 2014 scholarship winner.
“The Little Lambs and the Very Special Mission” can be purchased at www.amazon.com, www.createspace.com, or by e-mailing Paglia at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The T-shirts designed by Galaska are available at email@example.com.