Courtesy of Delaware Online:
Persistent health conditions shouldn’t keep someone from achieving goals, WNBA star Elena Delle Donne told students at Wilmington Hospital’s First State School, a program for chronically ill children.
The Ursuline Academy and University of Delaware grad and Olympic gold medalist told students how suffering from Lyme disease, which can cause long-term joint, heart and central nervous system problems, didn’t keep her from pursuing her dreams. The key, she said, was to set goals and surround yourself with great people.
“There might be days that you don’t feel so hot,” Delle Donne told nearly 20 students Wednesday morning. “Tell someone. It helps to have someone there to support you and guide you. Just be honest and open with them about what you are feeling or what you may be nervous about or upset about that day.
“They can help you get through those toughest times, because we know we can’t get through them alone.”
Located in Wilmington Hospital, the First State School gives children and adolescents who would otherwise be homebound with serious chronic illnesses the chance to attend school with their peers while they receive medical treatment. The school offers kindergarten through high school education to children with diabetes, sickle-cell anemia, severe asthma, cancer and other illnesses that preclude regular school attendance.
The 31-year-old program, the first such school and one of only three in the country, is a collaborative effort by Christiana Care and the Red Clay Consolidated School District. The school has a camp that encourages students to adopt healthy lifestyles, another reason Delle Donne was there.
“Bringing Elena in today to help with some of our activities … really shows the students that they can overcome their chronic illness and work on physical activities, maybe in a modified version of what the typical student may do,” said Elizabeth Houser, the school program director. “But that there is still the ability despite their chronic illness to be able to participate in health and wellness.”
The visit touched 17-year-old Telyka Brooker-Parquet.
“I have asthma so it’s really hard for me to do any sports, and I’m really scared so I just give up,” Brooker-Parquet said. “But [Delle Donne] didn’t give up. She said anybody can do it, and I guess I can do it, too.”
Brooker-Parquet, who has been in the school for four years, suffers from chronic asthma and severe allergies that cause her to go into shock if she smells anything she’s allergic to. The teen said Delle Donne’s visit allowed her to see there are others like her, including people who have family members with disabilities.
Like Delle Donne’s sister Lizzie, who is deaf, blind and has intellectual disabilities, Brooker-Parquet said her brother is also disabled.
“This was especially important to me,” Brooker-Parquet said. “I’m a sick child that has a brother with autism, and I’m scared of almost everything, to see her and how she can do everything she wants to do … Why can’t I?”
Delle Donne, a Delaware native who serves as a Christiana Care spokeswoman, is no stranger to providing young children help. This summer, she turned the U.S womens basketball team’s gold medal win in Brazil into a win for babies born on that same day by gifting newborns at Christiana Hospital miniature green, fuzzy Nike Waffle 1 sneaks.
Nike and Delle Donne, Delaware’s first Summer Olympic gold medalist in 16 years, had promised to donate the kicks if her team took the gold.