Monmouth College students make being different empowering for two little boys

MONMOUTH, Illinois-- Every piece of art Ryan Dawson creates is different. The Monmouth college sophomore transforms lack luster looking powders into something different, something unique.

"Art is for the people," says Dawson.

And his art is for one Monmouth graduate and her family.

Dawson and other Monmouth students have been transforming medical looking devices into masterpieces for three-year-old Thomas Doyle for the past few years. Each one is different.

"As a parent you never want your child to be different," says Thomas' mom, Carissa Doyle. She graduated from Monmouth College in 2008.

Thomas was different though, diagnosed with Craniosynostosis from the start. The soft spot on his head, which typically takes a year to close, fused in two months. His brain had no room to grow.

"What they had to do is go in and remove parts of their skull," says Carissa.

After surgery baby Thomas was forced to wear a helmet 23-hours a day. It was specifically designed to control skull growth.

"They're sterile, they look like a medical device," says Carissa.

With every six week check-up, Thomas gets a new, bigger helmet. Then Carissa brings them straight to the students.

"I think its kind of empowering to put a design on it," says Dawson.

After hours in the art room, the medical device is transformed.

"It's a completely different conversation that I have with people. Instead of what's wrong with him. it's where did you get that? How do I get one?" says Carissa.

Two years later the helmets are more like toys.

"We leave them on display in his room so he gets to see them," says Carissa.

The toys now though, take on a different, deeper meaning.

"Now that his brother has helmets too, they're much more important," says Carissa.

Six-month-old baby brother Conrad was recently diagnosed with the same condition. Now he proudly sports helmet number one.

Carissa doesn't know exactly how many more helmets Conrad will need, but with the help of a brother who know the difficulties all too well and a community embracing a Monmouth grad, this family will continue facing its differences head on.

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