Ally Krajewski is a rock star.
At her Chicago elementary school, students beg to be her buddy and her Girl Scout troop meetings are no different.
“Can I sit next to Ally at dinner?” one of her Sister Girl Scouts asks Ally’s mom during a recent field trip. Another one rushes to be her partner during a group activity.
To say the 10-year-old Girl Scout Junior is popular is an understatement, but her family and friends consider her more so a blessing.
Ally was born with Type 1 Spinal Muscular Atrophy, or SMA. The disease is the leading genetic cause of death for infants and is caused by a mutation in the survival motor neuron, according to curesma.org.
SMA impairs the nerves that control voluntary muscle movement, such as crawling, walking, head and neck control, and swallowing. As a result, Ally drives a power wheelchair and communicates with her eyes.
“Her life expectancy was less than two years and I want to give her as many experiences as possible. She teaches us all life lessons,” Ally’s mother, Tina Krajewski, explained. “The troop does so much for her emotionally.”
And the feeling is mutual as Ally is a valuable member of Troop 20149, according to her leader, Tracy Baldwin.
“She helps the girls learn how to accept all girls and shares her story when we go to larger group events, like World Thinking Day,” said Tracy Baldwin. “She helps us all to be more accepting of other people and be more empathetic.”
This summer, Ally went overnight camping for the first time and she was able to help educate other Girl Scout troops about her condition.
“It was the first time she had attended a sleepover,” Krajewski said. “It was phenomenal. It was the best ‘normal’ childhood experience she’s ever had.”
As a former Girl Scout, Krajewski wanted her daughter to have a traditional troop experience as well.
“Every time we go to a Girl Scout meeting, her eyes light up,” Krajewski said. “She enjoys being with her friends.”
And they enjoy being with her as well. Maya Wagner-Tyree, an 11-year-old Girl Scout Junior, said Ally is one of the reasons she enjoys Girl Scouts so much.
“I like coloring with her and hanging out with her,” she said. “We learn to work together and help each other if someone doesn’t know how to do something and we help Ally, too.”
Bella Alvarez, who’s also a 10-year-old Girl Scout Junior, agreed.
“We interact with each other because sometimes people don’t interact with each other because they’re different,” she explained. “You should be kind to everyone.”
It’s a motto that the girls have wholeheartedly embraced since they welcomed Ally into their troop about two years ago after she transferred schools.
“She’s resilient and she’s made us better people,” said Baldwin. “Girl Scouts is for every girl. We’re all learning so much from her. She’s definitely made our Girl Scout experience richer.”
To learn more about Ally, visit her blog.
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