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Former WDI-IRC East Employee who Survived Fiery Accident Settles into her “She Den” to write Series of Children’s Books at Del Webb Orlando

Tuesday, November 22, 2011 / Del Webb

ORLANDO, Fla.  – Donna Morris never set out to be a writer of children’s books, but fate led her in that direction just as it led her to a place she said she never wants to leave.

“I had not planned to be an author,” the Florida native said from her home office at the Del Webb Orlando community near Davenport.   “It chose me; I didn’t choose it.”

But, she and her husband Jeff, did choose their home at Del Webb Orlando in 2008 and they’re very glad they did.

“I wouldn’t want to live anywhere else,” said Morris.  “My husband feels that when he’s away, I’m taken care of by our incredible neighbors.”  Because of their jobs the couple travels a lot, but they always have someone to look after their 15-year-old rescued pets, a gray cat and a boxer named Morris who she lovingly says looks like a “bug-eyed dingo.”

Morris, a former large theme park employee who grew up in the Fort Myers/Sanibel Island area, lost all of her hair and most of her skin in 2004 when a fireball engulfed her body as she stoked a fire pit near her home in Lake Wales. 

“I was burned over most of my body,” she said.  “I have scarring, but it really doesn’t bother me.  I’m just thankful I’m alive.  I tell people ‘it was a heck of a way to get a chemical peel!’ ”

While Donna was recuperating from her injuries, Hurricanes Charley, Frances and Jeanne blew across Florida destroying the Morris’s Lake Wales home and everything in it. Like so many others, the couple had to start over from scratch.

During her recovery Donna Morris had an epiphany.  As she looked outside, a firefly landed on the screen.  She thought to herself how beautiful this creature was that lit up such a vast amount of darkness and immediately thought of Edison creating the light bulb.  Thus her first series was born.

The rest, as they say, is history.  Or at least, historical in the sense of children’s books, as Morris – aka Donna Raye – took a different approach to her literary works.  Each of her children’s books are written in English, Spanish and Portuguese.

Since then she has published several books in different genres, including a new series called “Faith-a-Leapin’ ” that is written from the point of view of a frog, one of Morris’s favorite creatures.  Donna Raye’s children’s series teaches about diversity, being kind to others and that children can grow up to do anything they set their minds to, Morris said. 

“We have a pond in our backyard and we hear croaking all the time,” she said.  “I have a collection of frogs in my office that range from ceramic ones to a Chinese frog carved from a nut to one from Africa that sounds like a bull frog when you rub a stick against its back.”

When she isn’t holed up in her “she den” writing, Morris – the mother of two sons and three grandsons – said she enjoys numerous amenities at Del Webb Orlando, including a dog park, hot tubs, pickleball courts, and gathering rooms for movies or parties.

She also makes good use of the community’s fitness center and swimming pools, exercising 1.5 hours daily at the gym and two hours at the inside pool

“I love the outdoors,” Morris said.  “We really love our home here, but the only time I’m inside very long is when I’m writing.  Otherwise, we’re on the golf cart riding around the community with our dog, just enjoying life.”


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