Eau Claire (WQOW) - Five years and over two thousand stuffed animal donations later, a local teen living with diabetes, has established a fund to help others.
Along with the help of family and friends, Katie Rhoten, has established the Katharine's Wish Fund through the Eau Claire Community Foundation.
The fund will help provide stuffed animals, books and other toys for children receiving medical care. At just thirteen years old she is the youngest person to start up a fund through the foundation.
When she was only 9 years old, Katie first learned she had Type 1 diabetes after being rushed to the hospital during a family vacation at Disney World. She told WQOW News 18, whenever she would get a poke or a shot, the hospital in Orlando, Fl. would give her a stuffed animal to take her mind off of the pain.
"It was scary because I'm not a big fan of needles, so whenever I got a poke or a shot I would get a stuffed animal and that made me feel like I was at home and I felt safer," says, Rhoten.
When she was still in the ICU after her diagnosis, Katie decided she wanted to help others get through their pain the same ways she did.
"When she was initially diagnosed, and she was in the ICU and things were looking pretty grim, we told her, going forward, you can live your life two ways. You can live your life as a victim or you can live your life as an advocate and help others," says Katie's mom, Kristin Everett.
And so, with the help of her family and friends thousands of toys and books have already been donated to hospitals around Northern Wisconsin. Working with the Eau Claire Community Foundation will help to stretch every dollar donated.
Everett says,"The goal of all of this is to endow a fund, so that once we have endowed the fund, the money can be used to issue grants to other hospitals, both in Wisconsin and around the country so we can provide toys to many, many more children receiving medical care."
Their goal is to raise $25,000 in the first five years, to be able to endow the fund.
When she's not working on her fund or going to school, Katie is heavily involved in dance which she says is a good distraction from her illness.
She says, "It kind of relieves the pain for me, I don't think about it when I'm dancing with the arthritis and the diabetes, it just is a way for me to get away from it."
It's that same feeling of escape, and comfort, that she wants to give to others.
"I am hoping to bring a smile to their face, when they're on their hospital bed," says Rhoten.
Katharine's Wish will be holding their first toy drive this coming January. For more information visit http://katharineswish.org/.