Story may end up in TV ad

Shanon Brooks lifts her head and smiles as a group of people enter the Augusta Training Shop on Fenwick Street.


The greeting lasts just a split second before Brooks returns to the work in front of her -- the reseating of a wooden chair. She loops and weaves small strips of tan cane through the base of a chair at a quick, steady pace that almost obscures the fact that her work is done with just her left hand.

Brooks, 25, was seated in her high school classroom nine years ago when she had a massive stroke. As she recovered, she was left paralyzed on the upper right side of her body and has since had to relearn to do everything -- from writing to replacing the seat on a chair -- without the use of her right hand.

Her struggle and the impact it has had on those around her have made Brooks the subject of a national TV commercial campaign for the insurance company Mutual of Omaha.

Called "Aha Moments," the campaign has sought out people from across the country to share their stories.

The insurance giant dispatched a bus to tour the country, and last summer the crew stopped at the Augusta Training Shop to listen to Brooks and her supervisor, Executive Director Audrey Murrell.

In the 30-second spot, Murrell talks about knowing Brooks.

"My 'aha moment' is her -- her experience of being able to do a lot with so little," Murrell said recently.

Murrell said Brooks is one of the best workers at the shop -- which employs the disabled to repair, refurbish and repaint furniture.

"For her to do every job up here is really inspirational," Murrell said.

Over several weeks, their video received enough votes to advance from the original group of 1,000 to 75 semifinalists. The deadline to vote for the next round will be Friday, when the number will be narrowed to 25. Ultimately, only 10 videos will be aired on TV.

Brooks was excited at the thought of winning the contest.

"It'd feel good," she said. "(If I win) I'm going to tell my mom and my family."

Murrell said the publicity is good for the shop, which relies on donations, fees for furniture repair and help from the United Way of the CSRA.

Find video contestants and vote online

Visit to vote for Shanon Brooks and Audrey Murrell in their video -- Encouraging Creativity -- or any of the other participants in the contest. Search by city to see two other contestants from Augusta.