“Shawn Gándola of Rochester, New York,” Friend, Oct. 2003, 27
On one of Rochester’s quiet tree-lined streets lives a nine-year-old inventor. Shawn Gándola, older brother to Micah, 6, Danielle, 4, and Lucas, 2, may not call himself an inventor. But his family knows of his talents—he makes up games and creates toys from whatever he finds. Most importantly, he turns bad situations into good ones by looking at the bright side.
During the last week of school, Shawn had appendicitis and had to have an operation. He missed his school’s field day and a field trip while he was in the hospital. Then he had to spend the first three weeks of summer inside recovering. Shawn was disappointed, but he never complained. He was too busy finding other things to do! Among them were reading books and drawing, two of his favorite pastimes. His dad says, “Shawn can find a way to have fun in any circumstance, so if someone had to get sick and miss out, it couldn’t have happened to a better person.” The doctors told him that on July fourth, a month from the day of the surgery, he would be well enough to play outside. He celebrated with a water balloon fight!
He enjoys water activities and often goes swimming with his family. For one vacation, they traveled to Cape Cod, Massachusetts. “We played on the beach and looked for seashells,” Shawn says. “My cousin found a really cool empty snail shell.” His favorite part? “Whale watching! We saw the second largest animal in the world, the finback whale. It was only 30 feet away from the boat.”
In school Shawn likes science best, and he’s good at it—probably because of his sharp memory. His dad says, “He has an amazing memory. He remembers family home evenings from when he was only two years old!”
Shawn still loves family home evening. “We like to play ‘Guess What Animal I Am,’” Shawn says. His good memory shows up again in another favorite family home evening game, “Guess Which Prophet I Am.” His parents are impressed with how well he knows the scriptures, and they’re always surprised at how creative their children can be. “They come up with really good ones,” Shawn’s mom says. “They remember more prophets than I can,” his dad adds with a laugh. Shawn’s favorite prophet from the scriptures is Nephi.
Sometimes Shawn, Micah, Danielle, and Lucas act out stories from the scriptures. Micah remembers performing Helaman’s stripling warriors, and another time they acted out the story of Noah’s ark. They also like to retell scripture stories using plastic action figures given to them by a pair of sister missionaries. Shawn thanked the sisters by baking his first cake for them.
Maybe next time he can learn to bake zucchini bread, using the enormous zucchini grown in his backyard. It’s almost half his size! He and Micah help with the family garden, and it’s their job to take care of the corn.
Whether gardening or playing, the Gándola children like being outside. They jump on their trampoline, ride bikes, and play in the trees. Shawn and Micah are great tree-climbers, and Danielle and Lucas like hunting for green pinecones. One day, their next-door neighbor pruned some branches that fell down in the Gándolas’ yard and formed a wall of leaves. Shawn made a hole through them to serve as a door, and he calls the leaf-wall his fort.
Sometimes he plays with his cousins, and his uncle has noticed his amazing imagination. “As long as Shawn is around, no one has to worry about getting bored. He’ll come up with something fun to do no matter what.”
Micah agrees; when Shawn decided to sew his own toys, he made several for Micah as well. Both Shawn and Micah use their artistic talents to sculpt action figures from clay. That way, they don’t have to buy them.
Shawn also likes performing magic tricks, telling jokes, playing the piano, and singing. As a part of the children’s choir in the middle school’s musical, he was the only member to have a solo part. He got to perform when he and his family acted out “The Night Before Christmas” for a ward Christmas party, and he enjoyed singing with the Primary at the Palmyra New York Temple open house.
The Gándolas feel blessed to live near places where important events in Church history happened. They especially love the Hill Cumorah Pageant. “We almost didn’t go this year,” Shawn’s mom says, “because we were leaving on vacation the next morning and we had so much to do.” But the children couldn’t stand to miss the pageant! They pitched in, hurrying with their chores, and when the pageant started that night, they were there.
Shawn has a testimony that Jesus Christ lives, because he has felt the Spirit calming his fears. When he was much younger and taking swimming lessons, he knew that soon he’d have to jump off the diving board. It scared him, so the day before swimming lessons he prayed about it. After jumping off the diving board, he told his mom, “Prayer works!”
Shawn’s testimony of prayer has continued to grow. When he was in the hospital, ready to have surgery to remove his appendix, he was nervous. He wanted a priesthood blessing, but his dad was out of town. Members from the ward came to give him a blessing, and afterward he felt peace.
Shawn has what it takes to feel peace all the time: a strong testimony. Whether he’s making his own toys, building a fort out of leaves, or creating happiness in a disappointing situation, he’s bound to share what he has with everyone around him.