Florida writer and artist aims to help youngsters through a fictional ‘character’

Tony Torres-Vanga, a talented artist from St Petersburg, Florida, launches a new multimedia project, with Jimmy Wheelz and the Minilights, an illustrated book coming this summer based on the author’s own experience of growing up with a disability.

Jimmy Wheelz is the story of a young boy who comes to terms with Spina Bifida, the same spinal cord condition that means Torres-Vanga to use a wheelchair, just as his Jimmy Wheelz character does. Through a journey with some lively cartoon characters he encounters, the Minilights, Jimmy discovers that his skills and abilities are far greater than his limitations. He learns not only to help himself, but also to help others around him.

The project touches on topics that affected Torres-Vanga when tackling his own physical, mental and emotional challenges. “As well as the pain caused by my condition, I had to learn to deal with issues that affect all young people – peer pressure, loneliness, forming friendships and tackling obstacles to my own goals”, he says.

“I believe that anyone can overcome barriers if they have the right attitude. And that’s at the core of Jimmy Wheelz. I want to pass on my own personal mantra – when things push you down, get up and push back harder.”

Torres-Vanga has worked as a professional in the multimedia field for over ten years. Much of the work on the project is done in-house within his own Jimmy Wheelz Corporation, but he also hopes to attract investment from interested organizations to fund further development, such as sound recording, animation, video editing and maintaining a website, www.jimmywheelz.com.

Torres explains: “I know that many young people face similar situations, whether they are disabled or not. For myself, the main risk is my health, which is always a factor in everything I do. I’ve learned that there will always be situations beyond my control, but if my attitudes are right, there is no challenge too great for me.

“That’s something I’d like to teach kids through the book. My goal is to take Jimmy Wheelz anywhere I can reach others in need”.