After retiring in 1995, Carol Hersh of Upper Macungie found she was spending too much time talking to her service dog Cadi and turtle, Myrtle, so she decided to invent some people to converse with.
That’s where “Handy Sandy” came in. Hersh, who was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 1985 and gets around in a wheel chair, wrote “Handy Sandy” about a girl in a wheel chair to inspire children with disabilities.
“I never thought I would write but I had something to say to the handicapped,” Hersh said in a recent interview. “I thought the handicapped did need direction to know they can grow up and be anything they want to be.”
At 1 p.m. on May 16, Hersh will receive an “Unsung Hero” from the Lehigh County Office of Aging and Adult Services at the county government center at 7th and Hamilton streets. Hersh was nominated by Aaron Health Care, which provides her with nurse’s aides who help her with personal care.
In nominating her, the company wrote: “Carol’s passion and zest for life is reflected in everything she does. Carol’s positive sense of self and inner strength have enabled her to persevere in spite of hardships.”
Ann O’Keefe, supervisor and event coordinator for the county’s Aging and Adult Services, said 16 Unsung Hero awards this year will go to people who give their time and talents to others and do it without fanfare. “Carol was selected because she distinguishes herself from others by rising to the occasion day after day despite personal adversity,” O’Keefe said.
Hersh said she wrote “Handy Sandy” because she hasn’t seen a lot of children’s books about children with disabilities and was trying to fill that void.
Since then, she’s written two more books. “Whatever Happened to Sarah?” is children’s book about a service dog and “Wrinkles Don’t Hurt” is about Baby Boomers.
“I’ve become a lean, mean writing machine,” Hersh said with a grin.
She plans to keep writing and already has ideas for her next book about an alligator. While her books haven’t hit the bestsellers list, her favorite review came from a teacher at Fogelsville Elementary School who had taught her now-grown daughter Megan.
Hersh said she left a copy of her book “Handy Sandy” for teacher Lynette Daniels at Fogelsville Elementary. “She e-mailed me the next day that she read it to her class and she said you could have heard a pin drop they were so interested,” Hersh said.
Before retiring in 1995, Hersh was in sales for UndercoverWear, a ladies lingerie company. After she was diagnosed with MS, she moved from Hellertown to Upper Macungie because she found a house with a swimming pool which would help her exercise her legs.
Recently, her 27-year-old daughter Megan, who is a doctoral student in physical therapy, told Hersh of her plans to go to Nepal in June for an internship. Hersh said when she fretted about Megan being so far away, her daughter told her she bet the intrepid Hersh would be all for going herself if she was Megan’s age.
Hersh smiled at the thought. “She’s right, I would,” she said.