-by Julia Roberts
Quinnlin is 10 years old. The bear she is holding is a new friend, Champ – or Champerina, as Quinnlin has renamed her. They’re on a special journey. This journey involves doctors, therapists, special educators, resilience and a sense of humor.
Quinnlin was born with a rare eye disorder and kidney disease. Her combination of symptoms is so rare, there are only three known cases in the world. Diagnosed at birth, Quinnlin has endured tests, treatments and ultimately kidney failure and finally a kidney transplant on her 8th birthday in September 2009. The syndrome, also affecting Quinnlin’s brother Gage, has caused developmental delays. Quinnlin’s life often revolves around physical, occupational, and speech therapy, several different medicines every day, and special education services at school.
The impact of being “different” can be hard on Quinnlin. She is noticing more and it’s challenging. While her differences can set her apart, she is a really good advocate and speaks out when she’s feeling bullied, or embarrassed by a modification at school. Recently she changed scouting troops to a more inclusive troop and asked that a change be made at school so she didn’t stand out so much as “different.” At 10, she’s handled more challenges in her life than some adults, yet she still loves her life.
It’s a big life for a little girl. When Build-A-Bear Workshop asked Quinnlin and her family to share her big life with special needs over the next year with a new friend she immediately said, “Yes!” For starters she loves making Build-A-Bear Workshop friends. She’s also a little girl who soaks up attention: as she says, “I will have a bear and we will be famous together!” She said yes, too, because she knows how much comfort can be found in snuggling with a stuffed animal.
Quinnlin made Champerina last month in Atlanta. She picked out sparkly Victoria Justice clothes and took special care in selecting the perfect blanket, pillow and accessories. Quinnlin couldn’t believe she got to pick out a scouting vest for her bear! Making Champerina was an event. How could it not be? Quinnlin got to kiss a heart, spend a long time picking clothing and bear (ear!) bows, and make a birth certificate!
Not so surprising is the fact that Quinnlin also picked out the medical kit at the Build-A-Bear Workshop store as an accessory for Champerina. Quinnlin had a long conversation with her brother about what he calls the medicine syringe in the kit because she insists it’s a needle. She should know.
Champerina has already comforted Quinnlin through a difficult time. Because Quinnlin takes a lot of medicine to keep her kidney safe it means her body isn’t able to fight off everyday germs. Recently, a regular cough and cold turned into something worse which kept her out of school for a week. After several doctor appointments she still ended up in the E.R., where she underwent tests and was prescribed yet, another medicine. She has had many trips to the hospital in her short life, so Quinnlin knows what to bring: a blanket and a friend, of course. Luckily Quinnlin didn’t need to be admitted to the hospital this time, so in the middle of the night Champerina and Quinnlin were able to come home.
When Quinnlin said, “Yes!” to telling her story here for Build-A-Bear Workshop, she knew she’d love creating a new friend. She had no idea that she’d need Champerina’s comfort in just a few days, through another round of needles, x-rays, and medicine. It looks like Champerina has already established her place in the family, and in Quinnlin’s heart.
-Julia Roberts, Quinnlin’s mom