NATICK, Mass. (Nov 28, 2011 -- When he first saw the flyers requesting coloring books for wounded warriors, Steve Russell knew he and his co-workers could help in some way.
After all, Russell is an illustrator with the Technical Publications Team, Tank-Automotive and Armaments Command, at Natick Soldier Systems Center. He and his colleagues certainly possess the right skill sets.
Russell thought they could take it a step further, however.
"We could throw something together a little more family-oriented," said Russell, "or something that would interest all ages. You can only color so much."
What began as an hour-long team-building exercise for the Technical Publications Team two years ago morphed into volume one of the "Heroes Activity Book," a 29-page, 11x17-inch publication filled with illustrations, word searches, other brain teasers and associated stories meant to entertain, challenge and occupy veterans and their families.
"It's designed to be lap-top friendly," Russell said. "The bottom line is things that are healing or healing in nature. Hats off, really, to the writers -- a lot of them put their time and creativity into it."
In addition to Russell and his team members, others also volunteered works.
"I deal with people from all types of fields," Russell said. "I actually recruited a few artists from the Maine Illustrators' Collective. Having to build a book takes more than what we had on the team. That's when I had to open it up."
Some 1,400 copies of the book were produced thanks to funding from Army Community Services at Natick. They are now being distributed free to local veterans' hospitals and other organizations that support Wounded Warriors.
"They're just now starting to get out there," Russell said. "Now we have something in hand. We'd like to see it be well received. I'd like to know how it affected people, too."
Russell pointed out that colleague Donna Leon played a big role in getting the book finished and into the hands of veterans.
"If something wasn't happening," said Russell, "she made it happen."
Leon said that Russell "was truly inspired to do something for our heroes and welcomed any other willing participants. I hope that others will want to participate, as well. We appreciate the enormous response from people here at the NSSC, as well as from those in other states"
"We thought that the activities could be a means to facilitate recovery," Leon continued. "This book contains activities to enhance motor skills, serve as a form of relaxation, aid memory, and to in some cases challenge thought process in other ways."
Now that the first book is complete, Russell said he hopes to make it an annual project.
"It's still evolving," Russell said. "I know there (are) other people in our community who might have some awesome ideas and even talent. If you can write it, I can illustrate it."