Families of Domestic Violence Victims Team Up To Produce Children’s Coloring Book
On a cold and drizzly afternoon in Chaska, five people gathered in a family room to share stories as a family. But it’s not a family any of them wanted to be a part of.
Nick and Shelly Beissel were visiting from Maple Grove. Nick’s sister, Natalie, was killed by her boyfriend in a murder-suicide in Arizona eight years ago. The Beissels started Love Conquers Violence in her memory.
“We’re turning this negative more into a positive of: what does a healthy relationship look like?” said Shelley. “We’re about educating and preventing.”
They were visiting the home of Bill Pew and his wife, Lissa Weimelt. Their daughter, Maria, was killed by her husband in their Maple Grove home in 2020. They started Maria’s Voice in her honor. Their niece, Sara Silva, is the executive director.
The two families brought their messages together in a new coloring book they hope to make available to children at community events very soon. It tells the story of Rocky, who was Maria’s dog, and his friend, Beau. The two dogs navigate a lesson about jealousy and honest communication.
“We think the greatest opportunity to influence society is through younger people, and if it’s kids or teenagers or adolescents, hopefully before they get exposed to bad things or too many bad things or learn or have the opportunity to learn values or what are important values and we think it’s the greatest opportunity to make change in the society,” said Bill Pew.
He and his wife have taken Rocky in as their own. The giant black lab is friendly and is often a hit at events where Maria’s Voice has a presence.
“He’s a constant reminder of Maria. Maria had jet-black hair and he’s jet-black. He brings a lot of love and joy and we wanted to share that,” said Pew.
The story further shows the community that positive relationships can happen.
“I think Maria would just be so proud of her dog, Rocky,” said Silva, who grew up with Maria as cousins and was a kindergarten teacher before she took over helping with the nonprofit. “She loved him and she would just have such a blast seeing him kind of having his debut and being a leader for preventing domestic abuse but being a connector for kids and everybody in the community.”