KIDS WITH COURAGE: Amelia Khounthikoumane
ROCHESTER, Minn. (KTTC) – KTTC is honored to introduce viewers monthly to some of the youngest among us, facing the unthinkable with bravery and optimism. In our 17th “Kids With Courage” segment, Caitlin Alexander introduces us to 5-year-old Amelia Khounthikoumane.
Even at her young age, Amelia is a slam dunk artist. Her forte is rainbows and unicorns.
She is the talent behind a t-shirt design that’s being used to fundraise for a very important cause.
Currently, Amelia is a happy, healthy girl living with her family in Charlotte, North Carolina. She is the eldest of three.
Back when she was just 3 years old, she’d had a series of stomach bugs.
What was supposed to be a hug to greet her dad, Thavone, at the door sent the family to the hospital.
“She ran to try to go see him and she basically collapsed in pain,” her mother, Michelle, recalled.
They thought the worst case scenario was appendicitis.
“So, to hear the word cancer, yeah, my floor just gave out,” Michelle said.
Amelia had a germ cell tumor.
According to Mayo Clinic, that’s a growth of cells that form from reproductive cells.
Amelia had to go through rounds of chemotherapy, each lasting days in the hospital.
Through every needle stick and every rough day, she kept pushing.
She even delivered cookies to the staff at the hospital during her stays.
“Some nights when she was sleeping, I would cry because she was doing it stronger than what I could face. It really proved to us that she is the one who is our angel,” Thavone said.
Between treatment and keeping Amelia safe when the COVID-19 pandemic began immediately after, Michelle had to make the difficult decision to leave her job.
“I 100% would not have been aware how financially difficult it is to care for a sick child before this experience,” she said.
A member of their care team put them in touch with the Pinky Swear Foundation. It’s an organization based here in Minnesota dedicated to supporting families, so they can focus on supporting their child.
“We understand that life continues to go on while a child has cancer. Life just doesn’t get to stop and all those medical bills, there are still other bills, and so that’s what we get to focus on,” said Pinky Swear Foundation Media and Marketing Specialist Jake Leif.
That brings us back to Amelia’s art.
When she completed treatment, she wanted to decorate cards to send to other kids like her.
Michelle reached out to Pinky Swear.
“When she was giving me the instructions for the cards, she actually also was like, ‘I have this amazing opportunity for her to design a t-shirt. Would she be interested?’”
WSI Sports, which is also based in Minnesota, was looking to support a youth organization and had recently reached out to Pinky Swear too.
“We thought, ‘Wow. Wouldn’t it be cool to find one of the children that could help design the graphic for the shirt and bring it to life?’” owner Joel Wiens told KTTC.
Amelia’s shirts went on sale in December. WSI Sports is launching them again between now and February 15th.
100 percent of the money goes back to Pinky Swear.
“They were over the moon and so excited about it,” Leif said.
Now, our Kid With Courage can go back to furthering her craft-- or even just playing. The way it should be.
You can purchase Amelia’s design and support Pinky Swear here.
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