Limitations don’t stop Palm Beach Gardens digital painter from creating art

September 6, 2012

The Palm Beach Post | September 4, 2012 | By Michelle Kaplan


For every artist comes a day of reckoning. It’s the day when you chose either to charge down the path of passion or take the paved road that leads to a job and a steady paycheck. It’s the day you decide to give up the dream.

That day came for A.J. Brockman when he began to lose the use of his hand and realized he would put his paintbrush down for good — except this was no choice.

“To have to relinquish your passion because you physically can’t do it anymore, it takes something out of your soul,” said Brockman. He lives with Spinal Muscular Atrophy, often called SMA, a progressive neuromuscular disease that has left him wheelchair-bound since the age of 2.

Brockman, now 24, found a way to retain his passion despite his condition, and now everyone who visits city hall can appreciate what he has achieved. The city — Brockman’s hometown — purchased his digital rendering of a banyan tree and has hung the 8-foot-by-4-foot work in the city council chamber and hosted a reception for him in early August.

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Hockey Hearts Needed: Apply Within

January 3, 2012

Hockey Hearts Needed: Apply Within

Cardiac Cane | January 2, 2012 | By KP Kelly

Jonathan Greeson is a 29 year old goalie with Spinal Muscular Atrophy or SMA. As a child, he fell in love with hockey. It became a sport that despite his disability, he could still play in backyard. Jonathan is the founder of the North Carolina Electric Wheelchair Hockey Association (NCEWHA) and the Carolina Fury PowerHockey™ Team. In March 2009, Jonathan and the Carolina Fury were honored by the Carolina Hurricanes as they were given the privilege of sounding the Hurricane Warning Siren. Jonathan was also named Time Warner Cable’s Skater of the Game.

Carolina Fury is one of many organizations supported by the Canes’ Kids ‘N Community Foundation, but the team needs fan support as well…

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Broken spine, torn pages help fuel teen’s charity

January 3, 2012

Broken spine, torn pages help fuel teen’s charity

The Tampa Tribune | December 31, 2011 | By Ray Reyes

BRANDON, Fla. — He fixes spines, mends tears and restores missing pieces.Ben Carpenter started this work when he was 12 and has refurbished a library’s worth of books during the past four years.He has donated the restored books, about 4,200 in all, to assisted living facilities, schools, homeless shelters and other organizations through his nonprofit company, Ben’s Mends. Carpenter, now 16, said his sense of civil service is inspired by two things: his parents and a congenital condition, spinal muscular atrophy, which causes muscle degeneration and weakness.The medical care that has helped him lead a productive life drives him to give to others, he said. Carpenter is a volunteer for Junior Achievement, Shriners Hospitals and other groups but wanted a charity to call his own.

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Lightning honor community heroes

November 5, 2011

Lightning honor community heroes

Fox 13 (Tampa) | October 25, 2011 | By Tanya Arja

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TAMPA – As a 16-year-old junior at King High School, nothing gets in Ben Carpenter’s way. Not his intense schedule of advanced placement classes in the International Baccalaureate program, and not the disease he lives with: spinal muscular atrophy

“It’s very easy to think I’m the only kid who can’t run, can’t walk, can’t play catch. But everything that’s ever gone on in my life, there’s always a positive to it,” he says.

Since middle school, Ben has helped others. He started a non-profit called Ben’s Mends, which takes old, tattered books, repairs them, and gives them to local groups.

His story caught the eye of the Lightning Foundation and their Community Heroes program. Each community hero gets $50,000 that they designate to a non profit.

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Digital painter uses one finger to create artwork

September 2, 2011

Digital painter uses one finger to create artwork

Sun Sentinel | September 2, 2011 | By Jonathan D. Marcus

A computer-based painter who uses one finger to create colorful artwork recently exhibited his work in Delray Beach.

A.J. Brockman’s six pieces at the “Vivid Expression in Art” exhibition at the 110 East Atlantic Avenue gallery presented the creative possibilities of painting without traditional brushes and paint.

Brockman, a 23-year-old Palm Beach Gardens resident, has spinal muscular atrophy. The disease, which is a form of muscular dystrophy, is progressive and characterized by the absence of a protein responsible for making muscle.

“A.J. is a well-respected young man with a positive attitude. He lives life as it is,” said gallery arts curator Grace Greenberg.

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Delray Beach artist inspires creativity with positive outlook

August 8, 2011

Delray Beach artist inspires creativity with positive outlook | August 8, 2011 | By Vince Norman

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DELRAY BEACH, FLA – AJ Brockman is an artist and graphic designer. He’s won awards, and has an ongoing gallery exhibition in Delray Beach. He’s also got SMA, or spinal muscular atrophy.

“I don’t see myself as disabled…I see myself as differently abled. You can’t really do some things that other people are able to do. But the things that you can do, you’re ultra-focused on,” said Brockman.

That focus and attention to detail make the transition from digital to canvas in scenes ranging from the serene, to chaotic.

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Genetic revolution: Human Genome Project finally offers help against diseases

June 27, 2011

Genetic revolution: Human Genome Project finally offers help against diseases

The Miami Herald | June 24, 2011 | By Fred Tasker

When the long-awaited Human Genome Project succeeded in 2003, mapping all the DNA, genes and chromosomes that operate the human body, it was hailed as a medical miracle, compared in scientific significance to the Apollo moon landings.

But the glow quickly faded. Progress has been slower and setbacks greater than expected, prompting some to say the whole idea is overblown, and research dollars could be better spent on other ways of fighting disease.

That’s about to change.

Researchers in South Florida and across the nation now are working on advances they say could soon create an explosion of new ways to prevent, detect, treat and someday even cure scores of intractable diseases.

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A Hero in a Wheelchair

June 16, 2011

A Hero in a Wheelchair

The Patriot Post | June 16, 2011 | By Roy Exum

As we sound the drums and lower the house lights so the spotlights can pick up the newest hero in my personal Hall of Fame, you’ll notice our newest honoree is dwarfed by the motorized wheelchair she is commanding with a hand lever but we make no apology that it will serve as the Chair of Honor for Audrey Winkelsas.

In fact, that chair is a beautiful accessory to this pretty girl’s life and has enabled her to scurry from first one classroom and then the next at Wekiva High School, where she and 500 of her classmates were graduated this weekend in the annual ceremonies held near Apopka, Fla.

Audrey Winkelas was the overwhelming choice as the school’s Valedictorian where, based on a 4.0 grade-point scale, her overall average was 5.1. The reason for such a disparity was because she made A’s in 14 Advanced Placement courses, this despite the fact her classmates would literally have to help her get her lessons from her bag because her hands and wrists are too frail to lift an average textbook.

Audrey, you see, has a crippling and incurable disease called spinal muscular atrophy and it is with great pleasure we tell you that she plans to dedicate the rest of her life studying and researching the disease. She has already been awarded a full scholarship to the University of Miami in Coral Gables.

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Wekiva High valedictorian’s life a victory over disability

June 3, 2011

Wekiva High valedictorian’s life a victory over disability

Orlando Sentinel | June 3, 2011 | By Joseph Freeman

The valedictorian at Wekiva High School near Apopka succeeded in 14 Advanced Placement courses, but she lacks the strength to operate a stapler. She earned a grade-point average of 5.1, but whenever she started a new class, she had to ask another student to help her take books out of her backpack.

Audrey Winkelsas’ life has been full of such difficult contrasts. Yet when she emerged from behind the stage in a wheelchair to raucous applause and a standing ovation during graduation ceremonies Friday, she finally had a moment to focus only on the victories. In her small, frail hands, she held a copy of her valedictory speech.

Winkelsas, 18, has spinal muscular atrophy, or SMA, a disease in which the body’s muscles degenerate. Although her affliction is crippling and incurable, she is a dazzling student who has received a full scholarship at the University of Miami, where she plans to study the disease that has dominated her life.

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Hundreds of children and adults will come together for Jacob’s Run, Walk & Roll to Cure SMA

February 25, 2011

Hundreds of children and adults will come together for Jacob’s Run, Walk & Roll to Cure SMA

Press Release | February 25, 2011

Sunday, March 6 at 9:30am hundreds of children and adults will come together at the South Country Regional Park in Boca Raton for Jacob’s Run, Walk & Roll to Cure SMA.  Boynton Beach residents Shaina and Adi Rappoport have served as the event organizers since 2002 when their son, Jacob, passed way from SMA (Spinal Muscular Atrophy) related complications.  Jacob was nine months old.

“We had never heard of SMA, but now we have pledged our lives to fighting this horrific disease” said Shaina. “We have chosen to do this to honor our son’s memory.”

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