Come Color Away With Me is a touching tribute from daughter to mother.
By Colleen Dorsey
Many people’s lives have been touched by Alzheimer’s disease and dementia; everyone has their own story. The story of Shannon Donnelly and her mother, Sandy, is truly an inspirational one, thanks to Shannon’s decision to create a coloring book that supports Alzheimer’s research and allowed her to reconnect with her mother in a deep, emotional way.
“Coloring can be useful and healthy for Alzheimer’s patients
because it is calming, repetitive, engaging, and stress-free.”
Come Color Away With Me is a book of line art designs inspired by a curated collection of Shannon’s travel photography from the last 20 years. Currently a professional photographer, Shannon says that her mother encouraged her to pursue her love of art for as long as she can remember, always spending time with her while she was doodling as a child or helping her cover her walls in art as a teenager. So when Sandy developed Alzheimer’s four years ago, and therapists recommended coloring for her due to its calming effects, Shannon decided to make a personal coloring book for them both. “[It was] a way to continue what seemed a natural progression of our lives together,” says Shannon. “[Then] I had a second realization: If this may help her feel good on a regular basis, maybe it will help others, too.” With that in mind, Shannon went on to publish the book for the public, and donates a portion of sales proceeds to Alzheimer’s disease research and related associations.
Shannon and her mother, Sandy
As plenty of research has found, and as has proven to be true for Sandy, coloring can be useful and healthy for Alzheimer’s patients because it is calming, repetitive, engaging, and stress-free. “Coloring with my mom can go on for several peaceful hours. In that time, she’s relaxed and focused in a positive way on her coloring,” says Shannon. Her mother has lost much of her vocabulary and memories, and sometimes doesn’t remember who Shannon is, but coloring together has become a way for mother and daughter to emotionally connect without needing words. “Sometimes I look up and she’s smiling back at me and I know we both feel the love regardless of what’s been lost along the way,” says Shannon.
Sandy proudly showing her work.
Shannon has also had unexpected personal responses from people around the globe who have used her book for wellness events, to teach their kids about the world, and as an example for young women of something created by a strong female role model. “These shared moments alone have made this a worthwhile endeavor,” says Shannon.
Shannon is now working on the sequel to Come Color Away With Me, which will be available in June. Perhaps by the time it comes out, Sandy will have completed all of the designs in the first book. “She has not finished the whole book yet, but I don’t take that personally, as she has a large stack of coloring books she likes to rotate through,” Shannon says with a smile.