MIDLOTHIAN — “It’s all been an amazing journey,” Kristin McCullough said describing the story of how an aerobics instructor and trainer, Alexandra Allred, came to write a book about Kristin’s mentally challenged son Travis McCullough, 20, also known as “The King.”
Allred’s book, “King Travis, The Most Perfect Boy in the World,” is about an autistic child, who is told by his parents that he is the most perfect boy in the world, but is teased by other children. He goes on to be accepted by his peers and is crowned as prom king.
“The book has such an innocence about it,” Kristin said. “It’s a way that my son can live forever, through Alex’s words. Even after he’s gone, his story will continue to touch future generations.”
Allred is launching a website for the book at www.kingtravis.com, has scheduled book signings for Travis and is editing Kristin’s personal stories about raising and caring for Travis.
“Kristin has such a conversational tone in her writing,” Allred said. “She speaks the truth unashamed and can be so hilarious sometimes.”
Allred has planned to publish Kristin’s biographical anecdotes of raising Travis and being a parent of a mentally challenged child on the King Travis website.
Travis, the book’s inspiration, began having strokes at the age of 4. Doctors diagnosed Travis as having mitochondrial encephalomyopathy, lactic acidosis and stroke-like episodes (MELAS). The main symptoms of the disease include seizures, neuropathy, myopathy and an inability to control body temperature. The stroke-like seizures left Travis mentally challenged with autistic tendencies.
Travis grew up in Midlothian and attended MISD special education classes. Kristin shared her fears about letting Travis go to school for the first time.
“As a parent of a mentally challenged child, you can be so filled with fear of what will happen to your child or how other children will treat him,” Kristin said.
During Travis’ senior year of high school in 2009, some students suggested that Travis be nominated for prom king. A campaign to vote for Travis as prom king spread through the school, and was remarkably lead by the other candidates nominated for prom king.
“These young men were campaigning, telling other students not to vote for them, but to vote for Travis,” Kristin said. “When Travis received the crown, these other young men on the stage started cheering and pretty soon everyone was chanting for Travis. I thought being prom king was the best thing that could ever happen to Travis, but then Alex wrote this book about him.”
Allred first met the McCullough family at her garage sale. They wanted to buy an above ground pool Allred had advertised, so that Kristin could exercise in the pool. Kristin had three back surgeries earlier in the year, due to lifting Travis to care for him and helping him with his physical therapy exercises.
“I was minding my own beeswax trying to have a garage sale,” Allred said. “The pool was out of their price range, so they just browsed through some other things, giving Travis time to play with (my horse) Sammy and my kids.”
Kristin and Allred talked about Travis. Allred found out that swimming was the only exercise Kristin could perform after her back surgeries.
“I was starting to feel kind of emotional and was trying to hold it back and not get mushy, so I accidentally barked at them, ‘back your car up! I’ll give you the pool,’” Allred said. “I could tell they were special people.”
Kristin and her husband, Danny, were so grateful to receive the swimming pool.
“She had no idea at the time that the swimming pool would save Travis from a summer of being locked indoors. He couldn’t go out in the heat, because he couldn’t control his body temperature,” Kristin said. “The swimming pool allowed him to go outside and play in the water, where he could stay cool.”
In the following weeks, Kristin’s best friend, Lory Ellis, sent pictures of Travis playing in the swimming pool.
Allred didn’t know at the time that her horse, Sammy, would help form a bond of friendship between her and Kristin. Earlier that year, Allred’s horse Sammy faced a life-threatening leg injury and colic. Allred visited several different veterinarians to receive a diagnosis and treatment for Sammy.
“None of the vets could tell me what had happened to Sammy’s leg – we still don’t know what the original injury was,” Allred said. “Dr. Tony Ellis was the only veterinarian that could help Sammy.”
After receiving more than $2,000 in treatments, Sammy developed a case of colic, a gastrointestinal condition resulting in extreme pain and bloating of the digestive system from trapped gas.
“After all this time I had never given up on Sammy, but I felt like I couldn’t put him through any more pain,” Allred said.
Allred reluctantly decided to put Sammy down. When Ellis arrived at Allred’s property he asked her an unusual question that changed Sammy’s future.
“He asked me, ‘How do you feel about a trade?’” Allred said. “I had no idea what he meant.”
Ellis proposed to treat and rehabilitate Sammy at his ranch for free, if Allred would be Ellis’ personal exercise and aerobics trainer. Ellis was joking about the exercise, but serious about treating the horse for free.
“He never really had any intention of setting foot in a gym to exercise with me,” Allred said. “The treatment and rehabilitation Sammy received (from Ellis) is beyond value.”
Allred became close friends with Tony Ellis and his wife, Lory, who Allred later discovered was best friends with Kristin.
“I remember getting the pictures of Travis playing in the pool from Lory while I was working out on an elliptical machine in the gym,” Allred said. “I pulled the pictures up on my phone and said, ‘oh yes!’ All of the people around must have thought I was crazy.”
An unbreakable bond of friendship formed between the Ellis family, the McCullough family and Allred. Allred then decided, without telling Kristin, to write a story about Travis, “The King.”
“Just from that 30-45 minutes when she first met him, she wrote a story about him that really captured his personality,” Kristin said. “It has such an innocence about it. I really hope that it speaks to a lot of people.”
Travis and Sammy, the horse, became best friends also, and Travis often visits Sammy at the Ellis’ home. “Come meet Sammy,” Travis says, introducing people to Sammy, even if they have known him for years.
Travis will soon begin attending book signings to promote the King Travis book.
For more information about Travis and the book “King Travis, the Most Perfect Boy in the World” visit www.kingtravis.com.
Contact Aaron at 469-517-1456 or firstname.lastname@example.org