Cork student makes her dream world a reality with book launch

If you can dream it, you can do it, Walt Disney once said, and it’s the advice by which Anna Stack, who has autism, lives her life — confounding everyone with her artistic and singing abilities.

Yesterday the 18-year-old launched her very own colouring book, Anna’s Dream World, and took everyone by surprise, not least her own family, by delivering a beautiful rendition of Muppets favourite ‘Rainbow Connection’.

Anna Stack, with her book, Anna's Dream World, at St Vincent's Secondary School, Cork. Pic: Jim Coughlan

“The 1979 Muppet Movie is my favourite movie of all time,” she said. “I had so much fun today.”

It was an emotional event for her parents, Finbarr and Catherine, from Churchtown North, Midleton, Co Cork.

“When Anna was three years old, I never, ever thought she would speak.

So to be here today and to witness her stand up in front of everyone is just fantastic,” said Finbarr.

Anna’s launch took place at St Vincent’s Secondary School in Cork City, where she is a sixth-year student and the first to enrol in the school’s Lir Hub, set up in 2013 to support students with autism.

It was the brainchild of former principal Donncha Ó Briain, who was at hand yesterday.

“She was our first student to attend the hub and we couldn’t have asked for better,” he said.

Anna received terrific support from her teachers, not least Claire Barry and Vivien O’Leary Callendar, a member of the SNA team (special needs assistants).

“She was always drawing and I said ‘Wouldn’t it be cool to do a colouring book’. She started in March and came back after the summer with about 70 drawings,” said Vivien.

Anna had form — her first novel, Victoria Bunnyham, was published when she was in sixth class.

Siobhán O’Donovan, the special educational needs co-ordinator at St Vincent’s, said the entire school had learned “so much from Anna”.

Anna has shown that while we all have different needs, we can all work together in a very positive way.

Anna’s brother Daniel said it was wonderful to see all her work pay off.

“We’d seen bits of it at home, but it’s great to see it all pulled together,” he said.

Anna’s achievements should be seen as a milestone for what dedicated autism units could do for children, he said.

Ciara, Anna’s sister, said it was “the first time we’ve seen the finished product, and it’s fantastic”.

Mum Catherine said drawing had always been an outlet for Anna, particularly in times of stress.

Lord Mayor of Cork Mick Finn, who launched Anna’s Dream World, said young people all over Cork “will lift your drawings to life with colour”.

“I look forward to trying it myself, and staying inside the lines,” he said.

As for Anna, whose dream is to be famous — she took another step in the right direction yesterday.

Anna’s Dream World, backed by local businesses including John Hartnett of Blackpool Shopping Centre, is available at the shopping centre and St Vincent’s for €5.

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