Champ traveled safely for more than 10 days to the country of Slovenia to visit the Križ family. He arrived from Canada and his visit with the Sears family, where he started his journey. He proudly came holding a Canadian hockey flag, which made the Križ family laugh because they are also big hockey fans! Slovenia is situated just right of Italy and below Austria, and it’s surrounded by beautiful mountains. It was a perfect destination for Champ’s Around the World Adventure!
Champ was visiting 12-year-old Hana, who has special needs. Her sister Neza, 8, also enjoyed him. Also in the Križ family are older sister Sara and mom and dad, Veronika and Robert. The young girls nicknamed Champ Medved, or “Medi,” for short, which in their language (Slovene) means bear, which was interesting because Hana is on a lot of medication.
Hana was born in 2000 with the same rare kidney disease (ARPKD) as Quinnlin, but she has had more complications. The day she was born the doctors said she would not survive, but Hana has beaten the odds, many times over. Kidneys remove toxins from the body and when they don’t work, toxins are removed through a catheter (a tube) with a process known as dialysis. Hana was on dialysis for seven years until she got an infection and her catheter had to be removed. Miraculously her kidneys started to function well enough for her to live without dialysis. She’s still on a lot of medication including injections of growth hormone and she’s on a strict, no fun, kidney-friendly diet.
Hana was so sick when she was younger she wasn’t able to attend kindergarten. She was six when she entered school and was struggling to read when she was diagnosed with dyslexia. School has been challenging but Hana doesn’t give up. Hana’s educators didn’t really understand the depth of her medical issues until a doctor finally visited the school to discuss how kidney disease can impact a child. It can hurt their concentration, memory and make them unbelievably tired. Kids with compromised kidney function sometimes only have enough energy to go to school, so they aren’t usually able to participate in extracurricular activities.
Champ was there for Hana when she had to take medication, when she would check her blood pressure and when she needed a furry friend to snuggle with, which is important for Hana. Hana and Neza have a lot of furry friends, so Champ (Medi!) was easily welcomed into the family. Veronika said that Champ made Hana feel special, which can be hard when the focus is keeping your body from fighting against you. Veronika was very grateful for the distraction of Champ’s visit, however short it may have been.
Champ arrived to Slovenia just in time to join the Križ family on vacation for a weeklong break from school. The family – and Champ and Hana’s cousins – traveled for five days to Hungary. They visited several sites with Champ and even took him to the U.S. Embassy when Champ was feeling homesick (they could only take a picture in the back of the building because of rules, but Champ didn’t mind!).
Hana was so sad to see Champ leave, but Build-A-Bear Workshop had a special delivery of new friends sent to Slovenia as a surprise…maybe we’ll get an update soon from their new furry friends!
Thanks to Build-A-Bear Workshop, Champ is making his way around the world to visit families touched by special needs. Already having visited Canada and Slovenia, can you guess what country he is going to next? It’s about 1,400 miles from Slovenia and there might just be a Build-A-Bear Workshop an hour away!
How many miles will Champ travel altogether this year? More importantly, how many smiles will he bring on his journey?