ROGERS, Ark. (KNWA) — The Miller McNeil Woodruff Foundation is helping kids with a rare disorder feel like they belong.
Alanny Oaks is a positive 9-year-old girl.
“She loves art. She loves her chevron. She’s in love with chevron. She loves school,” her mother, Mary Medina said.
Even though she’s on a challenging journey.
“I don’t like using my wheelchair because I like walking,” Oaks said.
She has Spinal Muscular Atrophy, making it difficult to walk or even cough. So The Miller McNeil Woodruff Foundation reached out to Medina.
“We’ll do things like providing wheelchairs or wheelchair ramps,” MMW Foundation Founder Meredith Woodruff said.
That is not all though. One of the most popular perks for the kids is a trip to the annual SMA convention.
“It’s the only time of the year that she feels apart of something, that she belongs somewhere, or that she’s not different,” Medina said.
Woodruff and her husband started the foundation after their son, Miller was diagnosed as a newborn.
“They told us that he wouldn’t live to see his first birthday and just to take him home and love him,” Woodruff said.
That was 2008. But thanks to research supported by the MMW Foundation, things are changing.
“Since his diagnosis in 2008, there are 2 FDA approved treatments available now,” Woodruff said.
One of them has had a big difference for Oaks.
“That’s actually been giving her a lot of the strength. She’s minimized the use of her wheelchair and her walker,” Mary Medina said.
“It’s really awesome and amazing just to watch that they have the support and that Patrick and Meredith, through the foundation, can provide that support for these families,” MMW Foundation volunteer Nora Honea said.
Honea and fellow volunteer, Jessica Anthony work every year to help put on the foundation’s big fundraiser, Cupcakes and Cocktails.
“The energy in the room is electric. The people who show up genuinely care about each other and other people. There are moments where everyone’s in tears and five minutes later everyone is cracking up,” Anthony said.
Medina said it is a tight-knit community, letting families know they do not have to face SMA alone.
“It gave us hope. It gave us a lot of hope,” she said.
Cupcakes and Cocktails is coming up in March. Good Day NWA’s Jaclyn House and Jason Suel will emcee the event. If you want to attend or help out through sponsorship or volunteering, click here.