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|Letter helps inspire girl to walk|
Ouachita Christian School seventh-grader Garryn Chowns knows firsthand the power prayer can have in one's life.
Last year, after learning about the horrific accident that almost cost a young Texas girl her life, Chowns and other OCS students sent cards to the Texas youth to lift her spirits.
It was on Nov. 2, 2008, that 11-year-old Brittany Fojtik was thrown 60 feet from her father's vehicle. She broke her back, left hip, two ribs and suffered a collapsed lung. She was taken to a Houston hospital where doctors feared she would not live much longer. She had back surgery, hip surgery and was then taken to Chicago Shriners Hospital to undergo therapy for her spinal cord injury.
Fojtik spent much of her young life dancing. She has been a member of the junior Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders for the past four years.
Doctors told Fojtik's family that if she survived, she most likely would never walk again.
OCS teacher Kay Culpepper learned about Fojtik's injuries from a friend at church. She asked her students to make cards for Fojtik to encourage her during her therapy sessions.
OCS middle school's Fellowship of Christian Athletes also sent $100 to help defray Fojtik's medical expenses.
"I found out about her (Fojtik) in Sunday school from a lady who has a travel agency in West Monroe," Culpepper said. "Her granddaughter is friends with this little girl and they've been in pageants together. She asked for prayer for this little girl, so one day in class, I said, 'Guys, let's make cards for her.' "
While Fojtik was thankful for all the cards she received, her parents said Chowns' card was the most inspirational.
"They were the sweetest cards in the world, but Garryn came up and asked, 'Mrs. Culpepper, what's that scripture about where Jesus tells the paralyzed man to pick up his cot and walk?' We looked it up, and he put in on there," Culpepper said.
Chowns also told Fojtik he would pray to God to allow her to dance again.
"This inspirational letter from Garryn, a young man displaying so much compassion and faith, helped give Brittany the motivation to walk again," said Bruce Deaton, OCS director of development.
"In June of this year, at the Cinderella Texas State Finals, Brittany walked onto the stage with braces, eased up to parallel bars and performed a dance routine," Deaton said. "When she completed her routine, she received a standing ovation and there was not a dry eye in the house."
Fojtik also plans to perform with the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders during halftime of the Cowboys traditional Thanksgiving Day game.
Culpepper's friend from church saw Fojtik dance again at the Cinderella Texas State Finals.
"She said in Sunday school, 'I believe the little boy in Kay's class is very much responsible for her determination,'" Culpepper said.
Fojtik insisted on meeting Chowns to thank him personally for his thoughts and prayers.
Fojtik parents drove overnight to witness a school play that featured Chowns as one of the main actors.
"Brittany insisted upon climbing the two flights of stairs to the chapel to join the OCS middle school students and meet Garryn," Deaton explained. "As Brittany's mom thanked the students for their letters of encouragement and reminded them to always reach out in prayer and inspiration to others, once again there was not a dry eye in the house."
Chowns was shocked to meet the girl he had prayed for regularly since November of last year. He said seeing her climb those stairs and meeting her for the first time provided him with one of the most memorable moments of his life.
"It felt good … it was a good experience," Chowns said. "She didn't really say much because she was kind of shy, and I was just shocked."
"Her mom and dad were all happy," Chowns continued. "It was a once-in-a-lifetime thing. It was inspiring to meet her and her parents. It was really cool to meet her and know that my card did something to inspire her."
Culpepper added, "When he leaned over to meet her, his little face lit up. His nickname in football is 'Sweetness' and he really is a sweet child. It was precious.
"We gave her a little stuffed eagle to remind her of her trip here. I couldn't believe they drove that far to come meet Garryn. That's a big deal. That's probably the coolest thing that's happened in my 35 years of teaching. It was such a little thing just to send cards out. And, we do things like that all the time, but we don't realize what kind of affect it will have on people."
Chowns also was pleased that a simple gesture went a long way in inspiring someone to overcome a tremendous obstacle.
"It was really cool to know that my card did that out of all the cards that were written," Chowns said.
Chowns has plans to keep in contact with Fojtik through letters and e-mail.