Photo by Katie Turpen.
Kim Mitchell and her son James Strong, the 2015 Children's Miracle Network Hospitals Alabama Champion.
For one local student, something as simple as a last name holds powerful meaning.
On Wednesday, April 8, Berry Middle School student James Strong was named as the 2015 Children's Miracle Network Hospitals Alabama Champion. The event took place at Renaissance Ross Bridge Golf Resort & Spa.
“James is a fighter, and he has always been a fighter,” said his mother, Kim Mitchell. “He is the definition of strength, the definition of faith and the definition of life."
When Mitchell was 5 months pregnant, she learned her baby would have hydrocephalus and would need a shunt placed in his brain immediately after birth. In addition to hydrocephalus and a spinal cord tumor, Strong also suffers from Dandy-Walker Syndrome, mild cerebral palsy, cranio-cerebral disproportion and Chiari malformation.
To date, Strong has had more than 20 surgeries to replace his shunt and to address some of his other conditions. The ninth floor at Children’s of Alabama has become a second home to him and his mother.
But he does not focus on his disability. He plays basketball and tennis, loves to swim and is passionate about his Alabama Crimson Tide football team. He works to raise awareness and funds for children who struggle with life-threatening medical conditions, and he is a mentor to younger children. He also inspired his mother to achieve her dream of being a teacher who holds a master’s degree in collaborative special education.
“He is literally a one in a million kid, and I’m glad that God chose me to take care of such a delicate angel who is determined to be a light without even knowing he is shining," she said.
During the event, Berry Middle School Principal Chris Robbins spoke about his time knowing Strong. He commented on his sense of humor and excellent basketball skills. Robbins also shared thoughts from some of Strong's teachers.
"The one thing that kept coming up again and again was his mega watt smile," Robbins said. "It's very fitting that his last name is strong because that's what this young man is."
Strong will serve as a fundraising and awareness ambassador for Children’s of Alabama and all children treated at the charity’s 170 member hospitals.
Every year, the Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals Champions program identifies a child with a remarkable medical story from each state. These Champions serve as ambassadors for the millions of children treated at Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals annually. The Champions and their family will travel to Washington, D.C., and Orlando, Florida for one week in October to meet with media and delegates to highlight the work taking place at Children’s Hospitals.
For more visit, childrensal.org.