The Avenue News - - NEWS -

Cer­e­monies Kath­leen Cairns dur­ing the event.

Alyssa was born with PFFD, or prox­i­mal femoral fo­cal de­fi­ciency, a rare non-hered­i­tary con­gen­i­tal birth de­fect that pri­mar­ily af­fects the hips and fe­murs. She had her first pro­ce­dure when she was just 6 months old and she un­der­went her 18th and 19th surg­eries last year.

De­spite these ob­sta­cles and set­backs, Alyssa’s pas­sion is help­ing oth­ers, said her mother Colleen, and in one case, even sav­ing their lives.

She was rec­og­nized by the Com­mis­sion for sav­ing the life of a 3-year-old while her fam­ily was on va­ca­tion in North Carolina last sum­mer. The child fell into a swim­ming pool while her fam­ily wasn’t look­ing and be­gan to sink since she could not swim. Alyssa no­ticed her strug­gling, swam to her, and pulled her out of the wa­ter to safety.

This brave act is just one ex­am­ple of how Alyssa gives back. For years, she has also worked with the Save-A-Limb Fund, an or­ga­ni­za­tion that raises money for chil­dren who oth­er­wise couldn’t af­ford cer­tain surg­eries or med­i­cal equip­ment.

“I just re­ally want to help a lot of peo­ple that are less for­tu­nate. I may have all these prob­lems, but things could be much much worse and I am grate­ful they aren’t,” said Alyssa to The Av­enue News.

Her next project is start­ing a food drive at her fam­ily’s church in or­der to help feed the home­less pop­u­la­tion and po­ten­tially set up a soup kitchen in the fu­ture.

This com­pas­sion and gen­eros­ity is just who Alyssa is, said her mother.

“She has com­pas­sion to­wards peo­ple who have been ill or who are in bad sit­u­a­tions. She has also felt com­pas­sion from oth­ers and this has molded who she is and she runs with it. She is al­ways will­ing to help.”

An­other hon­oree cel­e­brated was Alana Bartholow who was awarded the Stu­dent of the Year — Sec­ondary School Award.

Born pre­ma­ture, Alana un­der­went mul­ti­ple head surg­eries be­fore she was de­clared legally blind and on the autism spec­trum. How­ever, at 21-year-old, Alana has be­come in­de­pen­dent and a strong com­mu­nity leader, us­ing her time to help oth­ers and give back.

She was nom­i­nated for the honor by her vi­sion teacher, Julie Gaynor, who had worked with Alana since she was in el­e­men­tary school.

“She is a true tes­ti­mony to Alana’s growth and ac­com­plish­ments and we feel noth­ing but blessed to have had such an in­cred­i­ble teacher to have taught her so many im­por­tant skills,” said Alana’s mother, Shelly about Gaynor.

An­other per­son who had helped Alana on this jour­ney was Ryan Gui­mont, one of her teach­ers at Ken­wood High School. Gui­mont con­stantly pushed Alana and al­lowed her and mo­ti­vated her to thrive, said Shelly.

Af­ter grad­u­at­ing in 2016 from Ken­wood from the Func­tional Aca­demic Learn­ing Sup­port (FALS) pro­gram Alana was ac­cepted into BCPS’s Post Sec­ondary FALS (PSFALS) pro­gram on the CCBC Es­sex cam­pus. Her mother said she is hop­ing in the fu­ture she will gain em­ploy­ment with a lo­cal re­tailer and con­tinue to de­velop the many life skills that have helped her reach the goals she has achieved to­day.

“As I al­ways tell Alana, ‘con­tinue to reach for the stars, any­thing is pos­si­ble if you strive for it,’” said her mother. “As par­ents, we feel blessed and are so proud of her.”

The Bal­ti­more County Com­mis­sion on Dis­abil­i­ties aims to pro­vide sup­port and ad­vo­cacy for County res­i­dents with dis­abil­i­ties and works to en­sure that County pro­grams, build­ings and ser­vices are open equally to all per­sons, re­gard­less of their dis­abil­i­ties.

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