A 6-year-old girl who has battled cystic fibrosis since birth will serve as an ambassador of children with illness in Missouri this year.
Jayla Kemp, a Fulton girl who lives with the disease that causes a mucus buildup in her lungs and digestive tract, was named the Children Miracle Network's champion of the state. Kemp is the first from Mid-Missouri to receive the state's honor, and commemorate, she will have a celebration from 3-5 p.m. Monday at Columbia Regional Airport.
The Children's Miracle Network website, childrensmiraclenetworkhospitals.org, describes the program, stating "every year, we identify a child with a remarkable medical story from each state. These "Champions' serve as the face for the millions of children treated at our hospitals every year."
Among other things throughout the year, champions visit Washington, D.C. and Orlando, Fla. to do media interviews, speak with state representatives, visit Disney World and meet celebrities taking part in CMN's annual national golf tournament.
Jayla's mother, Michelle Kemp, is also the coordinator of Children's Miracle Network and Special Events at MU Children's Hospital, where her daughter receives treatment. Kemp said her 6-year-old is looking forward to the opportunity, even if she doesn't totally get all of the implications.
"She is very excited, (but) she probably doesn't fully understand the honor bestowed upon her, (and) how significant it is," said Michelle Kemp. "She's excited to see the White House and Cinderella's Castle, so she understands those things and understands she's helping kids in the hospital, but the extent of that reach is probably a little beyond her comprehension."
Even if Jayla Kemp doesn't realize the full importance of her role as an ambassador for children like her, her mother does.
"It's very much an honor for her to have been selected," said Michelle Kemp. "I certainly think she's a remarkable little girl, so it's great to be able to have the opportunity to give back to the hospital and to Children's Miracle Network, entities that have done a lot to take care of her in the six years of her life. I'm very proud of her to have the opportunity to represent a group of kids who have a host of hardships and challenges that they face. For her to be the face and the voice for them is certainly an honor and I think she will do that very well."