Trinity Rain Irby uses her talents for writing, art and drama to teach people about autism, and she tries to make a difference in the world in other ways, too.
The 11-year-old Wyandotte girl was diagnosed with autism and cerebral palsy when she was a year old. Since the age of 2, she’s been attending Burger School for Students with Autism in Garden City.
She’s learned a lot in her decade-plus-one years, including some heartfelt lessons about giving.
For her birthday a few months ago, she and her 16-year-old sister Zoe and her mom, artist Diane Irby, spent a week in Walt Disney World in Florida.
Trinity Rain has been “obsessed” with all things Disney ever since, her mother said. But she also left the park, where the family stayed at the Disney All-Star Music Resort, with a concern.
The family’s vacation package included a dining plan that offered three meals a day—one large sit-down meal, a counter meal and a snack.
“The meals were huge,” Diane said. “We started sharing the meals with each other, and then we had meals left over on the plan. We asked if they could donate them and were told no.”
Trinity Rain thought about that.
“It made me feel stuff in my heart,” she said.
So when she got home, she wrote a letter to the Disney folks about it.
She was very polite in her letter and told the recipients that her time at the park was “great,” but that she was concerned about the meals that were paid for and uneaten.
“There’s a lot of people in the entire world that are poor and don’t have any food,” Trinity Rain wrote. “I mean, like, people can’t starve for breakfast, for lunch, for dinner, or at snack time or dessert. And we’re not trying to be mean, but people need lots of food or people will die.”
She signed her letter with “love” and drew a picture on the bottom of it that included herself smiling with Mickey Mouse, Walt Disney, Pocahontas and Cinderella’s Castle.
“I care for the homeless people, the poor,” Trinity Rain said, explaining why she wrote the letter. “It looked like we wasted a lot of food.”
Diane posted Trinity Rain’s letter on her Facebook page, where travel agent Francine Weinandy saw it, was impressed by it and sent it to some of her contacts at Disney World.
A short while letter, Trinity Rain got a letter back from Heather Havey of Disney World Guest Services, thanking her for her suggestions and assuring her that the park cares very much about feeding the poor. She told the 11-year-old how uncooked and unserved meals from the dining program are donated to a food bank in Florida—more than 29,000 pounds of food last year alone.
And that made Trinity Rain happy, as did the autographed photos Havey sent to her family. Trinity Rain’s photo is of all the Disney princesses.
The 11-year-old budding artist enjoys sharing her bright outlook on life by creating hand painted tiles. She has her own Facebook page, called “The Art of Trinity Rain Irby,” through which she sells some of her creations for $10 each. The 11-year-old now donates half of every sale to Oak Park's Forgotten Harvest food bank, following the example of Disney World.
Some of her pieces also were included in a recent show featuring artwork at the Developmental Disabilities Center at The Guidance Center in Southgate. One of Trinity Rain’s pieces in that show was sold to a woman from California. And the girl’s artwork also was featured in the
She writes and illustrates stories on an ongoing basis, and in the last year, has become a thespian, too, through Diane speaks highly of the value of the experience for Trinity Rain to act with other children who don’ have autism, and of how that experience has helped to “create awareness” in others about autism.
“Acting is so good for kids in the (autism) spectrum,” Diane said. “They already know what to say and what to do.”
Trinity Rain said she was anxious at first about appearing on stage, but that she’s now “all over it.” And she proudly showed pictures of herself in costume for the two plays she’s done so far. Her pictures from her role as a puppy in “101 Dalmatians” show her with her sixth-grade teacher, Joan Romke, attending the performance, and with her proud grandmother, Ida Lindeman of Lincoln Park.
What Trinity Rain does through all her endeavors is inspire people—travel agents, Disney workers, people from the theater and art worlds, teachers …
“Her teacher is most proud of her, as is everyone whose lives she has touched,” Diane said. “She is not only overcoming the obstacles that have been put in her path, but she’s also trying to help others and be the change they would like to see in the world. I know she inspires me every day. She has made a huge impact on a lot of people’s lives.”
Trinity Rain has physical limitations due to her mild cerebral palsy, and her autism imposes challenges, too. Family members work with her to find ways to overcome those, and Trinity Rain has learned that there’s not much she can’t do, as long as she’s willing to work and be innovative.
For instance, she has trouble talking on the telephone when she can’t see facial expressions, which makes it hard for her to communicate with her dad, Jason Kluck, who lives in Louisiana. He visits her often, but phone calls between the two have been difficult. So Diane has arranged for the two to talk via computer over Skype, so Trinity Rain can see her dad’s face during those long-distance conversations.
The girl hopes to attend college someday, and wants to do many things in the future, including working as a party planner and as an actor portraying a character at Disney World. And she wants to “make more art.”
She’s also in the process, with her mother’s help, of creating a web show she's calling The All About Trinity Rain Show. (The first two episodes can be viewed under the "videos" tab above.)
“It’s not about being famous; it’s about helping other people,” Trinity Rain said.