Eau Claire (WQOW)- At 13-years-old Katie Rhoten has faced more challenges than most people twice her age.
Diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes at the age of 9, and then Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis three years later -- Katie made the decision early on, that disease would not define her.
"It started immediately from her hospital bed, which was something to see, it kind of gives me chills," recalls Katie's mother, Kristin Everett. "Thinking about it right now, that she had that insight and that perspective at 9-years-old to say 'Hey, I'm hurting right now and this is really scary but we're going to move forward, we're going to get past this. We can turn it around and do something positive for others.'"
And shortly after, with the help of her family, Katharine's Wish was born. To date the annual drive has given thousands of toys to children in area hospitals. "Every time I got an insulin shot or a finger poke I would always get a toy or a stuffed animal and that made me feel more at home," says Katie as she explains the basic idea behind Katharine's Wish. Each year on the anniversary of her diagnosis Katie helps to pass out the toys and stuffed animals. She's fighting back against diabetes in other ways too. Katie has met with state lawmakers to lobby the cause and was part of a senate hearing on research funding. She's even met with President Obama at the White House to discuss stem cell research.
Each year Katie joins in the annual Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation walk to cure diabetes. She leads a team of friends who call themselves 'The DIVAbetics'.
For Katie, each stride is one step closer to finding a cure. And helping others, while on her own journey --- is what she says it's all about. "I really hope that Katharine's Wish can grow even bigger so that I can donate to other hospitals, not only in Eau Claire but all over Wisconsin," says Katie. "And hopefully all over the country one day."