A teen draws up big plans

Dani Bowman, a 16-year old La Cañada High School sophomore who has autism, said she started to feel famous on Saturday as she signed autograph after autograph in front of La Cañada Books and Toys on Saturday.

“I feel like a celebrity, I think I'm becoming one,” Dani said.

She spent two hours Saturday signing “Danny and Goliath,” a recently published book created by John Benjamin Martin, Joey Travolta and Richard Willich and illustrated by Dani. Although contributing to a published book would be a crowning achievement for most high-school students, it’s one of Dani’s humbler highlights in her short but already bright career.

On Oct. 30, Dani won an ANCA Naturally Autistic award for her contributions in the visual arts and the way in which she’s showcased the ability of individuals with autism through her work with Powerlight Studios.

Powerlight Studios, an animation and entertainment company, was founded by Dani five years ago when she first discovered her passion for animation. Today, Dani illustrates, writes and voice-acts in nine different cartoon series and has created more than 30 different characters for her stories. She also teaches animation classes to people of any age, from teenagers to adults, and does freelance animation and illustration.

Dani can juggle so many things — she currently has about five freelance assignments, Powerlight Studios projects, work and high school to attend — because of her ability to multi-task and zip through projects.

The first two parts of “Danny and Goliath,” a three-book series about bullying, are complete. It took Dani six hours to illustrate the first, 44-page book and two days to complete the second 60-page book. Proceeds from the sale of the book will be donated to the HEAL Foundation, a non-profit organization in Florida that serves individuals with autism living in the greater Jacksonville, Fla. area.

Dani was able to create Powerlight Studios with the help of her aunt and uncle, Sandy and Patrick Eidemiller, with whom she lives. When Dani started living with her aunt and uncle, she would tell Sandy how she wanted to start her own company. At first, Sandy thought it was an 11-year-old’s pipe dream, but that all changed when she saw Dani’s work and heard the five-year plan she set out for Powerlight Studios. Sandy soon realized how serious her niece was.

“I felt her frustration that no one really paid attention to her or took her seriously,” Sandy said. “I was really trying to be someone she felt took her seriously. It just took off after that.”

Now retired, Sandy and Patrick are both helping Dani reach her goal of taking Powerlight Studios international as quickly as possible, maybe as soon as Dani graduates high school.

“We'll go international — you'll see. It will be great,” Dani said.

The goal is to employ mostly autistics once Powerlight Studios is international because of all they have to offer, Dani said.

“The amazing thing about autistics is when they find something they like, that’s all they want to do, they just want to get better and better at it,” Sandy said. “So many of them are artistic and have something to offer, but are unemployed and just fall through the cracks. We're trying to lessen those odds because we know what they are capable of if just given the chance.”

To learn more about Dani and see her work, visit her website at www.powerlight-studios.com.

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