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Dr. John Otto, DVM, maintains a veterinary practice in Norman, Okla., and volunteers for “Friends for Folks.”


Above, students at the Little Light Christian School, a private school for children with at least one incarcerated parent, hear a reading of “Marvin’s Shining Star” with Dr. John Otto, DVM, and Justin Jones, former director of the Oklahoma Corrections Department and chairman of the school’s board. Each student received a stuffed animal made by female prisoners at the Mabel Bassett Correctional Center, the another institution in the state to begin implementing an inmate dog training program.


“Every human being has to be touched, has to have compassion with another human being, whether you are imprisoned or not. It just so happens our saving grace wasn’t a human being, it was a dog.”


- Marva Perry, daughter of former inmate


helping Otto rebuild his fence and barn after a tornado destroyed the prop- erty. This furthered their friendship, and joined their passion to create a children’s book to help the youngest population affected by familial incarceration. “The program, the documentary—it’s a long way to make a book,” Otto


says. “The whole purpose of these programs is to give the children hope. If you want to summarize it in one word—it’s hope.” The original transcript sits on Otto’s desk at his veterinary clinic. The date “11-28-11” is typed in plain font on the front of the first draft. Perry would not see the book come to life. Otto recalls the moment he felt like he had been hit in the stomach with a baseball bat. He stood caddy-corner from Perry’s hospital bed and the doctor when Perry was told he had amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), often referred to as Lou Gehrig’s Disease. “He looked at me and said, ‘Doc, am I going to die?’ And I had to say,


‘Yes, you are.’” “He said, ‘Don’t worry, Doc. You gave me five years I would never have


had.’”


Although Perry made bad mistakes in his life, through doing good, he was able to leave a contribution that could help change the tide for families af- fected by poor choices. The children’s book, “Marvin’s Shining Star,” was released on November 18, 2014.


A Little Light Looking around the book reading at Little Light Christian School in


Oklahoma City, Marva Perry says, “Daddy would have loved this.” She is the daughter and self-proclaimed fishing buddy of her father,


Marvin Perry. Marva and Otto are reading the story to the children of in- mates or former inmates. “Children of incarcerated parents battle the shame factor. The message of


“Marvin’s Shining Star” can help alleviate this,” says Robin Khoury, founder and principal of Little Light Christian School. “Dr. Otto’s visit is important because the story expresses the idea that incarcerated people are valuable and can still contribute to our communities.”


Marva reads and speaks from experience. She was 11 years old when her father went to prison and, having a mother who was in and out of her life, she raised herself. As a child, she had to fight feelings of anger because she felt like Marvin had made a choice that had cost her her father. “The kids hear negative things about their parents and have no resources to help address it—mentally it can break you,” Marva says. “These babies, if somebody doesn’t let them know they are capable of making good decisions, will fall into the vicious cycle.” Now a registered nurse with children of her own, she holds no resentment,


only love for the man whom she says died being the good man he always was. Marva focuses on educating children that their parents’ legacy is not inherited; their legacy is the one they choose to create. “Every human being has to be touched, has to have compassion with another human being, whether you are imprisoned or not,” Marva says. “It just so happens our saving grace wasn’t a human being, it was a dog.”


To learn more, contact 405-329-6889 or visit www.friendsforfolks.org


DECEMBER 2014 21


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