- Orem/Geneva TIMES -

Polar bears bring happiness to art student

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Rebecca Bishop displays her winning painting.

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Rebecca shows off some of her polar bear collection.

by Patricia Knoell, Times Reporter

    Rebecca Bishop loves polar bears. She also loves to create artwork. It's a small wonder, then, that a combination of these two interests would net the 14-year old ninth-grader at Lakeridge Junior High first place in a city-wide junior high art contest.
    "I've loved polar bears since my mom inspired me to choose them as a subject for a report I was supposed to write on animals when I was in second grade," Rebecca said. "After I wrote the report, I became fascinated with them and now I collect them.
    "As for art, that started when I was in seventh grade and we had a required art course. We all had to draw a picture of these weird, ugly objects. I loved it! I kept on taking art and now I'm in studio art and doing all sorts of things, from sculpture to painting to scratch board."
    Rebecca's award winning painting was done in oil pencil, one or her favorite mediums (along with water color and scratch board).
    Her painting won the blue ribbon at the SCERA Art Show for Junior High Students in Orem, getting particularly high marks in creativity and emotion. Although the painting was of polar bears, Rebecca's art teacher, Miss Lee, said that Rebecca told her that she and her father were represented in the picture.
    "She's a special little girl," her father, Robert, said. "She's a 4.0 student, she loves to read and write as well as paint.
    "Her goal is to write and illustrate her own children's books and to be the voice of a character in an animated Disney move."
    Her talent, dedication and goals come despite trials that might have daunted a less determined youngster.
    Born hearing impaired, Rebecca wears hearing aids in both ears and "hears" with her eyes by lip-reading, as well as with her ears.
    But harder than her own hearing problems is seeing her mother, Amy, suffer from a genetic disorder called Huntington's Disease.
    "Huntington's Disease is an inherited neurodegenerative disorder that causes brain cells to die. It is due to a defective gene that is passed from one generation to the next," Robert said. "It's like going insane while suffering from Multiple Sclerosis and Parkinson's Disease at the same time."
    The disease has caused Amy to go from a devoted, talented and loving mother to a confused, at times abusive, woman who now must live away from her children.
    "She currently lives with her mother and I take the children to visit her once a week," Robert said.
    Amy Bishop inherited the disorder from her father. Of the six children in her family, three have been diagnosed with the defective gene. While Rebecca and her four younger siblings have not yet been tested for the gene, there is a 50-50 chance that any of the children will inherit this disease.
    It is the possibility of seeing two or three of his children, as well as his believed wife, suffer and eventually die from this frightening disease, that caused Robert to sell his computer software business last year in order to devote his entire attention to raising money and increasing awareness of Huntington's Disease.
    "When I decided to do this, the first question from the kids was 'how are we going to live?'," he said. "But things have worked out. We have a lovely house and I was able to sell the business to a California company that really wanted the functionality of the software we were working on, so we have enough now, that if we economize, we can make it.
    "I'm just one person, but one person can make a difference if he can dedicate enough time to the work."
    While Robert works to find a cure for Huntington's Disease, Rebecca remembers the mother who started her love for reading and her passion for polar bears.
    "She would take me up to the zoo all the time and we always looked first and longest at the polar bears," she said.
    "When I was doing my report, mom looked for a stuffed polar bear that I could use, but we couldn't find one until after I had finished giving the report."
    She still has that stuffed bear that she and her mother found seven years ago, but it isn't alone now—an impressive collection of polar bears sits atop an armoire full of a variety of books. The books include everything from Nancy Drew ("I started collecting them a few years ago, but they're a little young for me now") to the first two books of a new four-part fantasy series that has her eagerly anticipating the conclusion.
    "My mom got me into reading," she recalled. "She would read to me and with me and help me so much. Before I was eight years old, I had read the Book of Mormon and I can read about 100 pages in an hour now."
    Rebecca misses her mother, but realizes that there is no way to change the way her mother is now.
    Her father is determined to do everything in his power to make sure the disease that has taken Amy out of their home will have a cure some day.
    For more information on Huntington's Disease and how you can help in the fight against it, visit Robert's Web Site at www.curehd.org.