FRENCHVILLE, Maine — Just a year ago, Kylie Pelletier missed her kindergarten graduation because she was undergoing treatment for acute lymphoblastic leukemia.
Kylie, now a first-grader at Dr. Levesque School, agreed that Friday afternoon’s schoolwide assembly in her honor more than made up for it.
Classmates, teachers, friends and staff were on hand as Kylie was officially named the Maine 2012 Children’s Miracle Network Champion Child.
“The Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals champion program honors remarkable children from throughout the United States and Canada who have triumphed despite severe medical challenges,” said Josh Scroggins, director of the Children’s Miracle Network of Eastern Maine Health Services. “For their courage and perseverance, these children [are] selected as ambassadors for the 17 million children treated at Children’s Miracle Network hospitals.”
Kylie was diagnosed in late December 2010 and what began as a family crisis has turned into a community’s miracle, according to her parents.
“She’s been in remission for about a year and a half now,” Kylie’s mother, Sherrie Pelletier, said Friday before the assembly kicked off in the Dr. Levesque School gymnasium. “She is just full of energy and so outgoing.”
In fact, her parents said, unless someone knows of Kylie’s diagnosis, it would be difficult to tell the 6-year-old is fighting the disease and undergoing bone marrow biopsies, lumbar punctures and monthly chemotherapy treatments.
“Kylie does get a little tired after a chemo treatment,” Sherri Pelletier said. “Other than that, she’s just fine.”
Her husband and Kylie’s father, Jeff Pelletier, agreed.
“She’s tough, really tough,” Jeff Pelletier said. “After she has her chemo she’ll tell us she wants to go shopping or have a steak.”
Both parents say it is the strength and optimism shown by their daughter that keeps the family going from day to day.
“She speaks of her illness and treatment with the maturity of someone far older than her age,” Scroggins said. “She is very brave and has served as an inspiration to other patients.”
Scroggins said he first met Kylie when she was receiving treatment at Eastern Maine Medical Center in Bangor last April.
“It was that smile that caught me from across the room,” he said. “It was then that I had the thought Kylie would be our next champion child.”
As the Maine Children’s Miracle Network’s champion, Kylie, her parents and younger brother Ryan, 4, will travel to Orlando, Fla., to meet with other state champions.
The family also will join the delegates for a special ceremony at the White House in Washington where they will meet President Barack Obama.
“These children and this program bring attention to the lifesaving pediatric health care that is being performed daily with the help of Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals,” Scroggins said.
In Maine, the program provided health services for 125,000 pediatric visits in Bangor, Blue Hill, Greenville, Pittsfield, Presque Isle and Waterville.
Throughout Kylie’s treatment, her parents said, the town of Frenchville has been right there with them with prayers, fundraisers and offers of help whenever needed.
“We can’t thank people enough for what they have done to help support Kylie,” Sherri Pelletier said. “There are really no words to express how we feel.”
On Friday, in addition to the unveiling of the special Children’s Miracle Network poster featuring Kylie, the youngster was presented a special medal from the foundation; letters of support from U.S. Rep. Mike Michaud, U.S. Sen. Olympia Snowe and Gov. Paul LePage; a municipal proclamation from the Frenchville Town Council; and a Visa shopping card from her classmates.
“I love to shop,” Kylie announced when she saw the card, and later added she had some of those funds already earmarked for an iPod Touch.
Sitting with her brother Ryan throughout the assembly, Kylie did not let a well-wisher or official walk past her chair without bounding up and giving a hug and flashing her trademark grin.
“It’s good to give people hope,” she said after the ceremony. “I hope I can help other kids [and] I’d tell them to take one day at a time and you will get better.”
Scroggins said it is that positive attitude that makes Kylie the perfect Maine Children’s Miracle Network champion.
“Kylie embraces life’s challenges with courage, optimism and wisdom far beyond her years,” Scroggins said. “With her infectious smile and her upbeat personality, Kylie inspires everyone around her.”
“Awesome” is how her friends at Dr. Levesque School describe Kylie.
“I was kind of sad when I heard she was sick,” Gavin Voisine, 7, said. “But she looks like she is feeling all better and I love her more than the whole wide world.”
Friends Jaimey Bernier, 7, and Zachary Guerrette, 7, nodded in agreement.
“I think she is awesome,” Jaimey said. “She has to have chemo but she is really strong.”
“She’s my buddy,” Zachary added.
“Kylie is just an outstanding young person,” her teacher Amy Bouchard said. “She is such a special little girl and so wise for her age.”
Bouchard said Kylie often will accompany her on walks around the school and talk about her life and medical treatments.
“She is just so strong and is such a great soul,” Bouchard said.
“Kylie is definitely a young lady that focuses on the cup is half full, not half empty,” Fern Desjardins, SAD 33 superintendent, said. “The optimistic attitude, big smile and beautiful sparkle in her eyes are amazing in this young girl that has undergone many health procedures and faced many challenges.”
Kylie’s parents said they were overwhelmed by the assembly and the opportunities their daughter’s selection as a Children’s Miracle Network representative means for her. They added that she already is planning her conversation with the nation’s leader.
“I’m going to tell President Obama not to quit being president and that he is doing a good job,” Kylie said.
And there is little doubt she’ll be grinning a mile wide as she does so.