New York, New York, USA
Charity: Curvy Girls
Medical Condition: Scoliosis
Medical Therapy: Scoliosis surgery
Leah was diagnosed with adolescent idiopathic scoliosis in middle school, and wore a back brace before requiring surgery to correct two curves growing in her back. Since then, she has made it her personal mission to empower and support girls diagnosed with scoliosis. Leah founded Curvy Girls, an international scoliosis support group for girls with nearly80 chapters in more than 30 states and 15countries around the world. Leah's Bakken Invitation Award will support training for Curvy Girls chapter leaders.
"Fitting in isn't easy when you're a teenager wearing a body brace 23 hours out of the day, every day. I was finishing my first year in middle school when I was diagnosed with adolescent idiopathic scoliosis and had to wear that "thing" to school. I wore my brace faithfully despite arguments and failed attempts to hide my brace in my locker.
"Ultimately, I required surgery to correct the two curves growing in my back. On June 27, 2006, I had two titanium rods and 22 screws affixed to my spine, and I quickly realized I would never feel the same normal again. For example, I had to find a new balance in dance class and a new stance in golf. I wanted to talk to other girls who were going through the same thing—feeling alone, different, angry about their brace, and worried about having to have surgery.
I held our first group in 2006 right before my fourteenth birthday with just three other girls. At our first group we talked about clothes and I brought down shirts to show how to disguise our braces by top-layering. It made us feel much better about the journey we were going through.
"Since then, we have expanded internationally thanks to media attention, social media, and word of mouth. As president and founder of Curvy Girls (CGs), we now have over 80 chapters in more than 30 states, and 15 countries around the world, each led by a girl with scoliosis who wants to impact the lives of others with scoliosis and spread scoliosis awareness. Leah and her Mom also manage the CGs private Facebook page that hundreds of followers use regularly to supplement their group support.
"I would not be who I am today without scoliosis, as it taught me how to overcome adversity and help other along the way. It's my personal mission to make sure girls who have scoliosis don't feel as alone and scared as I did when I was first diagnosed with the condition."
“Everyone has something to deal with, and this is ours. Paying it forward, or "doing it for the next girl," will make her journey much easier and make you feel great about lending a helping hand.”
Curvy Girls, a network of peer-led support groups, reduces the emotional impact of scoliosis by empowering girls ages 9 to 22 years old through mutual support and acceptance to become leaders, make healthy lifestyle choices, and improve self-esteem. Leah works to spread the Curvy Girls mission around the world and to impact how doctors and other medical providers treat scoliosis. This grant will support training for Curvy Girls chapter leaders.
*Not everyone who receives this therapy will receive the same results as the patient in this story. Talk with your doctor to determine if this type of therapy is right for you.