While she was a student at URI, Carol Liu took on the care of a disabled classmate, Marybeth Caldarone, in return for financial aid. The two became lifelong friends.
Caldarone, who uses a wheelchair, has a mysterious nerve disease that has left her in need of assistance in accomplishing simple tasks, like getting dressed or taking notes. While Liu’s ministrations certainly made her friend’s life at URI easier, Liu says she was the chief beneficiary in the relationship: “It was a completely life-changing opportunity. A number of huge events in my life connect to her.”
Caldarone’s example taught Liu to “put your head down, press forward, and make a difference. Marybeth brought out the potential in me.”
Liu says Caldarone inspired her to go to law school and to write her first book, Arlene on the Scene, a children’s chapter book whose lead character has Charcot-Marie-Tooth (CMT), the debilitating nerve condition that Caldarone and her nine-year-old daughter Grace both have. Caldarone only learned the name of her illness when her daughter received the identical diagnosis.
Proceeds from the book, which was released on Sept. 1, 2010, and is available on Amazon.com, are being donated to the Hereditary Neuropathy Foundation. According to Liu, more than 500 copies of the book have already been sold.
The story centers on title character Arlene and her campaign to be class secretary at her Rhode Island school. Liu also wrote a teacher’s guide to the book with the goal of raising awareness about CMT. The main goal of the book, say Liu and Calderone, is to educate people about CMT. There is as yet no cure for the 2.6 million people afflicted with CMT.
The book is also a tribute: “Hanging out with Marybeth has provided me with a teeny window into her world, and it certainly makes me feel that I want to do something—anything—to help,” Liu says. “Marybeth doesn’t ever let anything stop her.”
For more information, check ArleneOnTheScene.com