Stark County’s Amazing Kids

No doubt about it — there are many amazing kids in Stark County! We could select only eight of them to feature in this issue — a tough task, to be sure. Each of these kids is amazing in his or her own way — and all have inspirational stories to tell.

No doubt about it — there are many amazing kids in Stark County! We could select only eight of them to feature in this issue — a tough task, to be sure. Each of these kids is amazing in his or her own way — and all have inspirational stories to tell. Read on to find out more about Caleb, Andrew, Jared, Sydney, Keegan, Malia, Natalie and Danica.

kids_caleb

Caleb House

AGE: 7
RESIDENCE: LOUISVILLE
GRADE: SECOND
SCHOOL: TRANSFERRING TO LOUISVILLE ELEMENTARY. PREVIOUSLY ATTENDED HARTER ELEMENTARY.
5 OF HIS FAVORITE THINGS: WWE, MARIO BROTHERS, PS2, WII, GOING TO FRIENDS’ HOUSES
THREE WORDS TO DESCRIBE HIM: ENERGETIC, INQUISITIVE, FUN-LOVING
WHAT MAKES HIM AMAZING:
Caleb’s journey into the world started out a bit bumpy. He was born at Aultman Hospital in the early hours of May 12, 2005. It took only a few moments for the nurses to realize that Caleb was having difficulty breathing. After a multitude of tests, it was determined that Caleb would need services that were available only in Cleveland. He was “life-flighted” to Rainbow Babies & Children’s Hospital in Cleveland. Eventually, he was diagnosed with a very rare heart defect, total anomalous pulmonary venous return. Open heart surgery was his only chance at survival.

Surgery was a success and he was on respiratory support for a short time. He went home when he was 5 weeks old. As he grew up, what his limitations might be was unknown. His heart health has amazed the cardiologists that he’s seen. He would have been crushed if he hadn’t been able to play sports like his older brother, Jacob. His spectacular healing has meant he’s gotten to play flag football, basketball and currently baseball where he loves being the catcher. He has a scar on his chest that Jacob has told him was where the doctors touched him to fix his heart. “Of course he has no idea the extent of what he went through; one day I’m sure he will,” said his mom, Danielle.

“For now he’s a happy 7-year-old who is protective of his 2-year-old brother and looks up to his older brother. I think Jacob’s addition to Caleb’s birthday prayer shows the bond they share — Jacob prayed for Caleb to not have any heart pain. He’s such a special kid and we thank God every day for his miraculous healing!”

kids_natalieNEW

Natalie James

AGE: 13
RESIDENCE: PLAIN TOWNSHIP
GRADE: EIGHTH
SCHOOL: HOME-SCHOOLED
5 OF HER FAVORITE THINGS: ENTERTAINING, FAMILY TIME, BIKE RIDING, DOING MAKEOVERS FOR HER FRIENDS (HAIR, NAILS AND CLOTHING), SCRAPBOOKING
THREE WORDS TO DESCRIBE HER: UPBEAT, DEDICATED, TRUSTWORTHY
WHAT MAKES HER AMAZING:
Natalie’s amazing gift is that she can touch hearts through her voice. She has been performing since she was 5 years old and has a very mature voice for a 13-year-old girl. Her passion is singing; specifically light opera and classical music. She has performed at the North Canton Playhouse, Players Guild of Canton, Firehouse Theatre in Alliance and the Meyer’s Lake Ballroom.

She also volunteers to sing at fundraisers and charity events. She has performed at Stark County venues including Aultman Hospital,The Palace Theatre, Canton Christian Home, Fieldcrest of North Canton, ArtSplash, Laurels Health Care and Canton Idol (which raises money for MDS-Stark County). In April, Natalie won first place in her age group at the Canton Idol competition. She sang “The Gypsy Song” from the opera “Carmen.” In addition to English, her repertoire includes songs in Latin, Italian and German. What makes her the happiest is when someone has heard her sing, and he tells her that she has inspired him with her singing.

kids_sydney

Sydney Maddox

AGE: 9
RESIDENCE: CANTON
GRADE: FOURTH
SCHOOL: TAFT ELEMENTARY (PLAIN LOCAL)
5 OF HER FAVORITE THINGS: DANCE, WALT DISNEY WORLD, FISHING WITH DAD, SPENDING TIME WITH FRIENDS AND FAMILY, EATING CRAB LEGS
THREE WORDS TO DESCRIBE HER: COMPASSIONATE, CURIOUS, CREATIVE
WHAT MAKES HER AMAZING:
Sydney celebrated her ninth birthday in January. But rather than throw a big party to get more toys, Sydney decided she really didn’t need any more toys. She asked guests to bring food and household items to donate to the Akron Ronald McDonald House. Sydney has two cousins who were born with cystic fibrosis and were hospitalized frequently with it. The family spent a great deal of time at the Ronald McDonald House and she thought this was something she could do to give back. All of her friends (and their parents) were excited to bring items to donate, and a few days later Sydney and her family took a carload of supplies to Akron.

“It made me so proud to see my daughter be so excited about helping others with no thought to herself — she is a truly giving soul,” said her mom, Andrea. “We continue to be amazed and can’t wait to see what the future has in store for her.” Sydney also has participated in several Great Stride Walks to help raise funds for the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation to help find a cure for this disease. She is a member of the First Friends Church “Girls of Grace” dance group and really
enjoys performing with them, most recently for the residents of a retirement home. She is always eager to be involved with neighborhood and community events such as the Canton Marathon, where she participated in the Kids Dash.

kids_jared

Jared McCully

AGE: 15
RESIDENCE: JACKSON TOWNSHIP
GRADE: 10TH
SCHOOL: JACKSON HIGH SCHOOL
5 OF HIS FAVORITE THINGS: MY NATION, FAMILY, AMERICAN HISTORY, DEBATE TEAM, HIGH SCHOOL SOCCER
THREE WORDS TO DESCRIBE HIM: AMBITIOUS, PATRIOTIC, POLITICALLY MINDED
WHAT MAKES HIM AMAZING:
Jared organized the Jackson Township Veterans Society and plans on installing the Jackson Township Patriot Gardens by the end of his high school career. It’s a pretty hefty feat in itself — let alone that he’s only 15 years old. Frustrated by the community’s lack of knowledge about the sacrifices of military men and women, Jared was inspired to take action. He has been interested in history — and especially military history — since he was a small child and would listen to his grandfather, a WWII Navy veteran, recollect his experiences in the Pacific. Jared has invested endless hours in planning and working toward his vision for the veterans memorial.

He wants his community to understand what it means to be an American citizen — and that freedom is not always free, he said. He hopes to break ground for the Jackson Township Patriot Gardens in October. When he is not volunteering for the Jackson Township Veterans Society, Jared plays soccer for his high school team and is a policy debater for his speech and debate team. Jared is an avid follower of politics and supports Ron Paul’s campaign for liberty. After high school, he plans to attend the U.S. Military Academy at West Point and study political science and public policy and minor in history. Eventually, he hopes to become a civic leader at the state or national level and promote his libertarian ideology.To find out more about the Jackson Township Veterans Society and his plans for the veterans memorial, go to www.jtvs.us.

kids_drew

Andrew Burton

AGE: 14
RESIDENCE: JACKSON TOWNSHIP
GRADE: NINTH
SCHOOL: JACKSON HIGH SCHOOL
5 OF HIS FAVORITE THINGS: POLITICS, BASEBALL, SCHOOL, HISTORY, AIRSOFT
THREE WORDS TO DESCRIBE HIM: POLITICAL, DRIVEN, CARING
WHAT MAKES HIM AMAZING:
While in eighth grade at Jackson Middle School, Drew played third base for his (No. 1-ranked) Jackson Baseball Association team, studied advanced language arts and Spanish while maintaining a 3.8 GPA, worked as a runner for Whipple Auction at Lakeshore Auction Center, and volunteered for the Democratic party in Stark County.

Andrew also applied for and was part of a small, select group chosen from about 24,000 nationwide applicants as a summer fellow for the Obama/Biden campaign. He attended training in Columbus for the fellowship and is now working to help recruit volunteers, register voters, work the telephone bank and canvass this summer to help the campaign to re-elect President Barack Obama. He is looking forward to being a part of the speech and debate team during his first year at Jackson High School — and a future in politics.

kids_intro_danica

Danica Jean Snyder

AGE: 4 1/2
RESIDENCE: LAKE TOWNSHIP
GRADE: PRESCHOOL
SCHOOL: LAKE CENTER CHRISTIAN SCHOOL
5 OF HER FAVORITE THINGS: PRINCESS PEACH, PLAYING DRESS UP (WITH LONG DRESSES AND GLITTERY CROWNS!), PRETENDING WITH MAKEUP AND NAIL POLISH, HER FAMILY YORKIEPOO, TWIXIE, BARBIES
THREE WORDS TO DESCRIBE HER: HAPPY, BRAVE, KIND
WHAT MAKES HER AMAZING:
Diagnosed with Chiari malformation at 18 months old and after enduring much pain and many neurological symptoms, Danica underwent a brain decompression at age 2 and a much more serious decompression along with a cervical fusion at age 3. Following this surgery she was in a wheelchair and a head-to-waist Minerva brace and kept completely immobile for six months. She wore a neck brace for another six months with many limitations. Her courage is contagious.

Because most of her early developmental years were spent without social interaction outside her family and the need to be homebound, every single life experience is exciting for her now. Her happiness is found in simple childhood pleasures kept out of reach before. Her mother, Monica, said Danica’s kindness and empathy for others is remarkable.

“I know this was planted and grown through the amazing love we have received from so many near and far during this journey,” Monica said. “Her bravery led me to finally find the cause of my own long-term pain and a diagnosis of my own Chiari and cervical instability in the past year, which included a brain decompression, fusion and additional spinal surgery. She is truly my angel.” Danica’s story can be found on her website, www.teamdanica.com.

kids_malia

Malia Marinos

AGE: 7
RESIDENCE: JACKSON TOWNSHIP
GRADE: SECOND
SCHOOL: ST. MARY, MASSILLON
5 OF HER FAVORITE THINGS: WATCHING TV, PLAYING OUTSIDE, PLAYING WITH THE BABIES AT THE GODDARD SCHOOL (HER MOM IS THE DIRECTOR THERE), GOING ON VACATIONS, PLAYING WITH MY BARBIE DOLLS
THREE WORDS TO DESCRIBE HER: BEAUTIFUL, FUNNY, INDEPENDENT
WHAT MAKES HER AMAZING:
Prior to her birth, Malia was diagnosed with spina bifida (a neural tube defect) and hydrocephalus (water on the brain) and has since surpassed all of her doctors’ expectations. Early on, doctors thought she would need crutches or a wheelchair to get around. Malia walks, runs, swims, takes jazz classes and rides her bike all on her own. One event that Malia loves to participate in is the Walk for Babies at the Akron Zoo to benefit the NICU (Neonatal Intensive Care Unit) at Akron Children’s Hospital.

Malia spent her first eight days in the NICU after surgery to repair the opening in her spine and to place a shunt on the right side of her brain to drain fluid. Malia and her family have been involved in the Walk for Babies since its beginning, when Malia was only 2 years old, and have raised nearly $8,000 for the Walk for Babies. Malia said she is very excited to begin second grade and make her First Communion this year. Malia has an engaging personality and loves to tell jokes and to laugh. People who know her and those who just meet her can tell that she is confident and mature. She also loves to read Junie B. Jones and Pinkalicious books to her grandmother. Her stories are full of expression and hand movements that make you smile and want to hear more. “Malia is our little angel and she continues to amaze us every day,” said her mom, Karen.

kids_keegan

Keegan O’Reilly

AGE: 14
RESIDENCE: NORTH CANTON
GRADE: NINTH
SCHOOL: HOOVER HIGH SCHOOL
5 OF HIS FAVORITE THINGS: SPORTS (HOCKEY, BASKETBALL, FOOTBALL, BASEBALL, SWIMMING), VIDEO GAMES, CHOCOLATE, HANGING OUT WITH FRIENDS, BEACH
THREE WORDS TO DESCRIBE HIM: SMART, QUIET, DETERMINED
WHAT MAKES HIM AMAZING:
What makes Keegan an amazing kid isn’t always what he does as what he doesn’t do. Keegan was 9 1/2 when he was paralyzed. Just hours before he lost the use of his legs, he had been outside playing football, riding his bike, running around — all the things so often taken for granted.

“When the reality of the situation finally settled in, we were in the position of living or clinging to what once was,” said his mom, Kim. “We chose living.” Keegan doesn’t complain about his daily therapies or not being able to run around the neighborhood with his friends or play on his school’s sports teams. His life is different — it’s not always fun or easy, but he has made the absolute best of it. A very smart and determined kid, Keegan does great in school and continues to challenge himself academically as well as physically with the adaptive sports he’s involved in. He plays sled hockey for the Cleveland Mighty Barons and the Ohio Blades, and he plays wheelchair basketball for the Wheelchair Cavaliers. Involvement in these two sports has taken him all over the country and Canada.

“Keegan is Keegan — all our kids are amazing in their own way,” Kim said. “He is surrounded by wonderful friends, teachers, teammates, family, as well as his therapists, who all go way above and beyond the norm to challenge and progress him. Bottom line — Keegan is amazing, but he’s surrounded by amazing people who bring out his best.”