Book and movie comes to life for Wallingford students

WALLINGFORD --  Being accepting of all people, no matter how they look, is a message that all schools try to get across to students.

And, some Parker Farms Elementary School students, in Wallingford, received a real life lesson on that subject Monday.

Ryan Bell, a high school junior in Wallingford, can be difficult to understand. But, his message is perfectly clear.

"I just want to tell them to choose kindness," said Bell, who is a member of the Sheehan High School swim team and marching band. "And to accept all people, no matter what they look like."

As part of the school district's kindness campaign, he has spoken at several schools over the past week. He informs the students about his condition, a craniofacial disorder called Treacher Collins Syndrome.

"He's had 45 surgeries all together," said Laura Bell, Ryan's mother.

It's the same condition as the character Auggie Pullman, in the book Wonder, which will be released as a movie November 17.

"When you bridge that gap of going into kindergarten and then going into middle school and then going to the high school, I kept waiting for that social part to really hit hard," said Laura Bell.

Fortunately, the incidents have been few. However, there was one mother, who asked to have Ryan placed in another school because his face scared her child.

"It doesn't always bother me that much," Ryan Bell said. "I like to not look at the negative things, but I look at the positive things."

Ryan Bell and "Auggie" from the movie, played by actor Jacob Tremblay, who also has Treacher Collins, nearly met this past summer.

"Jacob Tremblay did go to one of the Treacher Collins retreats," Laura Bell explained. "There were two this summer. And, unfortunately, we went to the other one."

The entire Parker Farms student body is scheduled to take in the movie Saturday, Nov. 18, the day after its debut.