Kayla & Courtney
Kayla is a strong 21-year-old girl who was healthy for most of her life. When she was first admitted to the hospital in December of 2012, her bladder had begun shutting down and doctors were unsure why.
After over a year of tests and scans, Kayla was diagnosed with Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome (EDS); a condition affecting the production of collagen which is important for tissue formation and structure within the body. Months passed and not much was working to curb her constant pain. That is when her family found out about Starlight!!
After almost a year of living with her diagnosis, Kayla and her family were able to enjoy a much needed weekend away to Great Wolf Lodge through the Starlight Escapes Program to enjoy some time away from the hospital, relax and also meet some new friends!
With only a few months into the New Year, Kayla was re-admitted to the hospital and now diagnosed with a new condition called Superior Mesenteric Artery (SMA) Syndrome; a rare digestive disorder only affecting about 500 people.
While these medical conditions have catastrophically interrupted her life and have resulted in dozens of extended in-patient hospitalizations, Kayla enforces strict rules that “only positive and happy people” are welcome to visit her when she is unwell. Her positivity and enthusiasm about living her life despite her illness, is absolutely contagious.
Courtney, Kayla's younger sister, is 19-years-old and has supported Kayla since she was first diagnosed. She has been a huge supporter at home with her younger siblings all while maintaining excellent grades and playing on her Rep Soccer Team. Courtney loves running fundraisers with Kayla, because the time they spend together planning is a lot of fun. Kayla is her best friend, and she is thankful for the Starlight Children's Foundation for being so supportive and always being there to make her family's days brighter.
Their determination to give back to others who are a part of the Starlight family is truly inspirational!
Daniella is an adorable, energetic, fun-loving 13-year-old girl who will melt your heart with her smile. She loves dancing, acting, swimming, horseback riding, art and movies; all of the typical things that many young girls her age might enjoy. While Daniella lives with Spastic Diplegia Cerebral Palsy, she doesn’t let her condition impact how she enjoys all of these things. At just 13-years-old, Daniella is required to plan her life around her appointments for physical therapy, occupational therapy, Botox injections, and later this year will undergo major surgeries.
Daniella has attended countless Starlight events with her family. In August of 2013, Daniella had her Wish granted through Starlight to “Climb a Mountain” in Banff, Alberta – and she made it all that way to the top of Sulphur Mountain with her brother Dylan and her parents. It was a time they will never forget.
Alexandra is a fun-loving, horseback riding, cupcake baking, dancing queen! She is also a 13-year-old Cancer Warrior.
In February 2013, Alexandra was rushed to the hospital to remove an extremely rare, high risk, stage 3 undifferentiated kidney sarcoma. The tumour, caused by a genetic mutation that also gave her lung cancer at 11-months-old, cost her her left kidney. While on treatment Alexandra found a safe haven in the Starlight Lounge at SickKids. The lounge was her daily escape, a place where she could feel normal and could craft, laugh and make new friends. We are grateful to Starlight for providing such a wonderful space and for the fact that there were dedicated times for oncology patients to use the room safely.
After 12 of the 26 prescribed cycles of treatment and 12 doses of radiation, Alexandra was forced to discontinue treatment because her body was no longer able to tolerate the chemo. Her blood was struggling to recuperate between chemo sessions, resulting in multiple, frequent transfusions, and a decline in her remaining kidney and liver functions.
Today, Alexandra continues regular monitoring at SickKids, but she is determined to live life on her terms and not worry about whatever may come next. She has joined her best friend, Kayla Johnston, and Team Wishes in fundraising for another child's Wish Trip because she feels it's important to give back, especially because she has been blessed with so much.
Emily was born with Spina Bifida and has had many medical procedures and surgeries since birth. We were first introduced to Starlight when Emily was 11 and she was granted her wish when she was 12. Wow, what an experience! Emily chose Disney World in Florida as her wish, but the fun and excitement started long before we arrived in Florida. When her wish was ready, a Starlight representative arrived at our home with a VERY large box. In that box was Emily’s wish along with a large assortment of gifts and toys, not only for her but her sister as well. We have never felt so blessed. This caring and giving attitude from Starlight has never stopped.
Since our wish, Emily and our entire family have participated in many Starlight great escapes events. From going to the movies, meeting TV stars, teen boat cruises around Toronto harbour (I think that was Emily’s favourite, a night out without the parents).
Starlight gives children an opportunity to be just kids, an opportunity to put the medical stuff aside, even if just for a few hours and spend some fun time with their family or other Starlight children. It shows the children they are not alone with their illness and/or disability. This is a priceless gift for which we will be eternally grateful!!
Emily is now a beautiful young adult who has recently graduated from Durham College where she studied to be a child and youth worker.
Stephanie spent a large part of her childhood in scrubs between the four walls of a hospital. Born with omphalocele, a condition where the organs grow outside of your body, it’s the severe chronic pain that’s been ruling her life since day one. Stephanie was initially introduced to Starlight when she received an Admit kit during her stay at the Hospital for Sick Children. The Starlight room and Game Centres in the hospital helped her leave her sickness behind in her bed and just be a kid.
Out of the hospital our family had the chance to take part in many Starlight Day Brighteners including boat rides, a Selena Gomez Concert and Stephanie’s all-time favourite – a trip to Great Wolf Lodge! It was a much needed break that came at the heels of an intense five weeks of hospitalization at a pediatric pain program.
Although her condition makes daily life tougher Stephanie doesn’t let that stop her from doing what she loves including horseback riding, skiing, snowboarding and dirt biking. As a budding philanthropist and public speaker, (her most recent speech was at Starlight’s 22nd Annual Gala) Stephanie joined Team Wishes to help raise money and awareness for Starlight, to give other kids the opportunities she’s been so fortunate to have.