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Choose Kind Chicago at Mother McAuley Sells Out in Less than 24 Hours

By Howard Ludwig | September 25, 2015 6:57am | Updated on September 25, 2015 8:44am
 Mary Kate Lynch and her mother Kerry Ryan Lynch have been using R.J. Palacio's book
Mary Kate Lynch and her mother Kerry Ryan Lynch have been using R.J. Palacio's book "Wonder" to encourage Chicago-area school children to "Choose Kind." The author will share the stage with the mother-daughter team on Oct. 17 at Mother McAuley Liberal Arts High School in Mount Greenwood.
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MOUNT GREENWOOD — Choose Kind Chicago, an event featuring author R.J. Palacio of the preteen novel "Wonder," sold out in 24 hours.

Palacio will share the stage at 2 p.m. Oct. 17 with Kerry Ryan Lynch and her daughter Mary Cate of Beverly. The question-and-answer session with the author will take place at Mother McAuley Liberal Arts High School in Mount Greenwood.

Tickets for the event at 3737 W. 99th St. cost $3 and went on sale at Sept. 17. The proceeds will be used to buy copies of the book for low-income schools, Kerry Ryan Lynch said.

Lynch might have anticipated a sellout crowd at her alma mater's 900-seat auditorium, but the pace at which tickets were sold was quite the surprise.

Lynch and her daughter will meet Palacio for the first time on stage. The mother-daughter team has been using the book to emphasize the author's underlying message to "Choose Kind." The pair have visited 105 schools since May 2012 to talk about Apert syndrome — a rare disorder caused by an extra protein on one gene.

Mary Cate was diagnosed with the condition shortly after being born. Apert syndrome results in extra bones and cartilage, causing a misshapen skull and melded fingers and toes. About 25 children are born with this craniofacial condition in the United States each year.

Ahead of their school presentation, Lynch asks teachers and students read "Wonder." Palacio's story details the life of August Pullman, a boy born with a facial deformity. His birthday is in October — hence the date for Choose Kind Chicago, Lynch said.

"Wonder" is told from Augie's perspective, as well as the perspective of classmates, his sister, her boyfriend and others.

Combining the lessons learned from the book with a visit from Mary Cate has had a powerful impact. It seems particularly relevant to sixth-, seventh- and eighth-grade students who are often approaching an age when they can feel self-absorbed and act unwelcoming toward others, Lynch said.

"I've written to her and told her I just want to give her a big hug and say, 'Thank You,'" Lynch said in a previous interview.

Ald. Matt O'Shea (19th) reached out to the New York-based author a while back and began laying the groundwork for an event with the help of the Chicago Public Library, Lynch said.

There was some talk of having "Wonder" being selected for the library's One Book, One Chicago program, but the suggestion ultimately came too late. Still, several nearby libraries have promised to host book discussions and other events related to the appearance, Lynch said.

Although the plan is evolving, the initial itinerary calls for Palacio to be the guest of honor at a special VIP session for some 20 families impacted by craniofacial disorders from the Chicago-area, Lynch said.

That will be followed by the session on stage at Mother McAuley, where Kerry Ryan Lynch will introduce the author. Palacio will discuss her book and motivations for writing it. The author will then answer questions and sign copies of her New York Times bestseller.

"It's been awesome. It's just become way bigger than I ever expected," Lynch said.

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