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Everyday Heroes: Blake Shelley overcomes challenges of cerebral palsy to write book

Blake Shelley sits at his desk in his office. It took Shelley, who has cerebral palsy, two years to write his book -- one letter at a time. (KATU Photo)

Blake Shelley was diagnosed with cerebral palsy at 6 months old.

He’s now 28 years old and has overcome many of the challenges that come with his diminished body movement and muscle coordination.

His grit and determination not only allowed him to graduate from high school and college, but also write a book that came out this week.

The everyday chores we all take on – making breakfast, putting on clothes, climbing stairs, even just walking down the street – are often as difficult for Shelley as climbing a mountain.

Writing the book, “Breaking Chains,” was his mountain.

“It was a mountain, but I knew it was a mountain that I had to conquer along – not necessarily for other people, although I’m sure it will help other people,” he says.

Climbing that mountain involved typing the book one letter at a time in his office with no assistance other than from his service dog, Stanley.

It took him two years.

Why did he write it?

To “let people know that even though our challenges are more visible than the average person, don’t assume, get to know the person, understand their background,” Shelley says.

He said writing allowed him to once again push his limits and to learn.

“Research has shown that people who write down their goals and their dreams are 42 percent more likely to achieve them,” he says. “I agree with that, but I wanted to take it one step further.”

Mary Wich, Shelley’s personal assistant for the past five years, said she encouraged him to write the book, but had to fight not to help him.

“There were many times that I wanted to help him, and I knew that I couldn’t and shouldn’t. It was a struggle for me to watch him struggle writing it, but I knew it was something he needed to do,” she says. “That’s part of who he is, and that’s why he is who he is now, because no one helped him growing up. He needed to figure it out for himself.”

Despite his condition, Wich said Shelley’s personal charisma shines.

“He walks in a room and people automatically are drawn to him,” Wich says. “Part of that is probably his CP, but the other part is just that he is the most giving, the most generous, the most honest person that you’ll ever meet.”

For Shelley, the book was a way to define his path to help others like him, and us.

“You can’t know where you’re going until you know where you’re at and where you’ve been,” he says.

"Breaking Chains" was released Wednesday, 10 days before World Cerebral Palsy Day. Shelley will host a book signing at Chapters Books and Coffee on Newberg Nov. 3.

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