First-hand Experience Spurs Pittsford Teen to Help Children's Hospital

She is a loyal fund-raiser for Golisano Children's Hospital at Strong

May 07, 2002

Martha McCahill is always happy to break a proverbial leg helping various school and community groups, including Golisano Children's Hospital at Strong. It wasn't that long ago, though, that the Pittsford teen-ager really was breaking her leg.

Martha, 17, has neurofibromatosis, a congenital condition in which there are tumors at the tip of nerve endings throughout the body. Martha, who was born in 1984, was diagnosed with the condition after breaking her tibia when she was just 19 months old. X-rays at that time revealed that the disease also caused her fibula to break before she was born. As a child, she broke her leg three times.

Since her diagnosis, Martha has been cared for at Golisano Children's Hospital. Her physician, Kenneth Jackman, M.D., one of two pediatric orthopedists at Golisano Children's, put Martha in touch with Dror Paley, M.D., at the University of Maryland, and her medical needs have been taken care of by both men for much of her life. After 13 surgeries, she recently rid herself of the leg brace she wore since she was a child.

Martha became involved in fund-raising for Golisano Children's Hospital in 1988, when she and her parents took part in the Stroll for Strong Kids. She's been a top fund-raiser at the annual event for four of the past five years. Last year, she collected pledges from more than 150 people, raising $3,000 for the hospital. She's not bashful about asking for contributions and explaining why it's important that the Rochester community have its own children's hospital.

"I go around to friends and neighbors, many of whom are familiar with my story and what I've experienced," she says. "If they don't know my story, I use it as an opportunity to tell them."

Martha is always thinking of new and creative ways to help Golisano Children's Hospital. She and her friends helped organize a very successful 12-hour dance marathon in March, one that involved students from McQuaid Jesuit High School and Our Lady of Mercy High School, where Martha is a senior.

When she was a child vacationing in Florida, Martha required the services of a hospital in the Sunshine State. The experience provided a better perspective on the benefits of having a hospital in her hometown devoted solely to children. "The hospital was so different there," she says. "It didn't have the children's atmosphere and it didn't have the same kind of technology."

When Martha isn't drumming up support for Golisano Children's Hospital, she spends her time with other organizations such as the Campus Ministry Board, Camp Haccamo, the Diocesan Youth Committee, and Camp Good Days and Special Times' Varsity Volunteers. At school, she helps with the yearbook. She even squeezes in a part-time job at the Pittsford Community Library. Martha hopes to study a dual major of English and Public and Community service this fall at Providence College in Rhode Island.

Join Martha as she walks in the Stroll for Strong Kids at 11 a.m. Saturday, June 1, at Genesee Valley Park. The event includes children's activities, free lunch, and a concert by Gary the Happy Pirate. Stroll participants raise money through sponsorship pledges. Last year, 800 people took part, raising more than $80,000 for Golisano Children's Hospital. Sign-in and children's activities start at 9 a.m. and the Stroll starts at 11 a.m. Pre-registration is required. For more information, call 585-273-5948.

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