Andie Proskus discovered she had a muscular disease her sophomore year at Beaverton High School. What started with her hunching over, turned out to be a neuromuscular disease that made walking painfully difficult. A weakening of the muscles, also known as myopathy, left Andie relying on a walker and powerchair to get around. Doctors did what they could, including a surgery that placed pins and rods in her back to help limit the forward hunch. She was told she wouldn’t walk again- a lot to accept while most kids are worried about an acne breakout or who they want to invite to the school dance.
Not only did Andie prove them wrong and walk again, but she’s now added some popular Portland events to her accomplishments. She joined some online running groups for inspiration and, after getting a new specialized walker, started walking. Though she still experiences pain, she pushes through it with a smile on her face to the finish line. Her first race was Heartbreaker 5k and, since then, she’s done a couple more 5ks, an 8k and even a 10k, all with sheer determination. She hopes to add a couple of half marathons to her list as well. Her next event: Race for the Roses 5k. Her supporters have a blog covering her journey at Andie’s Army.
While this young woman inspired me for her spirit and determination to never stop, it was what she does off the pavement that really touched me. After experiencing firsthand the challenges of extended hospital stays, Andie decided to do something about it. With her own money and gift cards she received, she put together a box of goodies to surprise a young patient at Doernbecher Children’s Hospital. Since then, she’s provided over 70 boxes to sick children who really need something to smile about. Smile Boxes from Andie include all sorts of fun things for the kids and are personally decorated by Andie. She also volunteers at the Ronald McDonald House and continues to turn negative experiences into positive ones.
Just like her hospital experience prompted her to start her smile boxes, her experience with bullying pushed her to do something about it. After being bullied at school and online, she started a Facebook group to raise awareness and note how frequently it still occurs, not just for her, but others with disabilities as well. Stand Up to Bullying encourages those who have been bullied to stand up, speak up and put an end to bullying. Once again, making a positive out of crushing, hurtful situations, this young lady amazes me.
This determined young woman has brought smiles to many sick children, encouraged bullying victims to stand up to bullies and proven that she can do anything she sets her mind to. Instead of listening to people who said she’d never walk again, she proved that she could. Instead of being bullied, she started a support group. Even with pain and self-doubt, she has proven she can finish a 5k and more.
This woman still has dreams and goals, even with her impressive list of accomplishments. She wants to be on The Ellen Degeneres Show to talk about bullying and her smile boxes, and hopes to one day work for a non-profit company. For a girl who has gone from not being able to walk, to planning a half marathon in May, I think she’s right. Anything is possible. Until then, I’ll continue to be inspired with a young lady that pushes through pain, refuses to take no for an answer and is doing her part making this world a better place.
“There are no excuses, if I can do it, anyone can do it” ~ Andie Proskus