Mason always loved drawing. He always amazed me with his ability to see something once and remember exact details days and months later. In the spring of 2020, when Mason was 11, he started taking classes with X in a Box. He loved it, and watching him become so good at storytelling was fun.
Then he suddenly fell ill. Mason was hospitalized in June of 2020 and was in the hospital for almost 2 months, his entire summer. Life was flipped upside down. He received a diagnosis of severe Crohn's disease, which is incurable.
He was fed through a PICC line in his arm and couldn't eat or drink anything for 4 weeks. Mason was so hungry that he started drawing every food he could think of during this time. The nurses and doctors would look forward to these drawings each day, and he would tell many stories about what he would eat when he could.
The following two years were filled with appointments and treatments. But, unfortunately, treatments are for life, and Mason is immunocompromised, so we have to quarantine and cannot do everyday things, like eat in a restaurant. So when I heard about Story Xperiential (through a friend who knew of Mason's love for all things Pixar), I thought it would be an excellent opportunity for Mason to return to one of his passions. One of his dreams was to visit Pixar someday and meet real Pixar artists, so this was the next best thing!
He was nervous because he thought there would be a lot of good artists and he would be way out of his league. However, Mason soon realized that this class had camaraderie and a constructive spirit. He loved the hosts and instructors and looked forward to each class.
He grew more confident putting his drawings out there and loved cheering on his fellow classmates. This class taught criticism in a way that fosters the storytellers' vision while adding helpful hints from peers. It was amazing to see so many good stories come to life.
Mason took his drawings from the hospital and decided to create a character based on the cheese pizza (it has been a favorite of everyone). Through this character, Reggie, Mason told his own story. The goal was to create a character the audience could connect with, only revealing it was a story within a story at the very end. It was very emotional making it, and Mason hoped others would be moved by Reggie, a simple slice of pizza. Mason wanted to show that what appeared to be a made-up story was genuinely attainable. He made sure that everything Reggie achieved, he had achieved. Reggie proved that kids (and adults, too!) could stand up, raise awareness, and choose to do something about anything that challenged them.
Mason was at the hospital every 1-2 weeks during this class and had a procedure during the final week. Yet, through it all, he persevered and found so much pride in finishing.
As his mom, I stood by him and helped him to put his thoughts into words. I taught him whatever skills I could offer, but the main thing was that we had fun. It was wonderful to work alongside him and watch his story come to life in a fun character.
This class convinced Mason to work with me and create a children's book, Not Your Average Slice of Pizza. Yay!! Mason had never warmed up to the idea because he wasn't sure he was up to the challenge of illustrating an entire book. However, Mason was able to use his storyboard illustrations for the book and develop a story spine that would work well in a story.
I am forever grateful for that moment when a friend suggested X in a Box and Story Xperiential. It was life-changing for Mason and gave him a voice to share his story in a way that would be rewarding and hopefully help others face their own challenges. Winning best story reel in the youth category left him speechless. It was truly unexpected and a perfect ending to such an excellent class.
Mason Harvey - Summer 2022 Alumni
Mason is a 13-year-old Crohn's warrior who loves to draw and enjoys Roblox, RC cars, Disneyland, and National Parks. He has an upcoming role as the emcee/host for the 2022 Champions of Hope Gala for the Crohn's and Colitis Foundation in San Diego. Like Reggie, he has spoken about Crohn's disease and blood donations at several events.