The McAllen Chamber of Commerce awarded $50,000 to six McAllen residents to continue the innovation spirit in the heart of the Valley.

“In front of a house made of red colored brick, a yard full of flowers and grass that was thick was a home to a new little tree that was planted, right next to an older tree, bigger and slanted,” reads the first page of “Be Still, Little Tree, Be Still” by Author Shawn Russell.

Russell is one of the six residents who received a McAllen Chamber of Commerce 2018 innovation grant.

Shawn Russell wrote these words in 2015 to help him battle what he says was one of the biggest storms in his life.

“My heart just kept pounding and pounding and then I just got filled with dread, just this fear came over me,” said Russell.

Russell soon found out from his doctor he was experiencing a panic attack, which would change the way he lived for the rest of that year.

“The second I opened my eyes I would experience panic and throughout the day I would feel very dissociated and every little thing would just trigger this panic in me. I would walk to HEB, panic, trying to drive my car more than half a mile away from my house, panic,” said Russell.

Until one day he met a Vietnamese monk who would teach him a different outlook on difficult times, called mindfulness.

“Instead of trying to push through them like they teach us in society, push through. If you’re not afraid tough it out, you actually sit back and be still,” said Russell.

Russell then got the idea to write his book to help others experiencing anxiety, panic or a hard time in life.

Russell was awarded $10,000, which is the maximum given out from the McAllen Chamber of Commerce.

Jorge Sanchez, Vice President of Business Development and Startups with the Chamber of Commerce, said their sole purpose is to continue to build the business community in McAllen.

“We want to be a place, where people can get familiarized with. That is entrepreneur community. I want to go there,” said Sanchez.

Sanchez says other recipients made a vinaigrette, energy bars and even a therapeutic device to help people with lower muscle pain in their legs.

As for Russell, his market is kids and presenting at different schools all over the Valley.

“I used this grant money to get this looper, it’s like $500. We are going to be able to make a beat with our mouth on the spot and rap the story to that,” said Russell.

Russell has reached over 1,200 kids spreading through 36 schools.

To read the book you can visit the “Be Still, Little Tree, Be Still” website 

Full List of 2018 McAllen Innovation Grant Winners