‘Mya Strong’ coming to Prospect Meadows
June 23, 2020 | Angela Jordan
Mya Gilchrist is a courageous young lady with terrific spirit and a deep commitment to helping other people in need.
Mya, 14, has been battling a brain tumor her entire life, ever since she was diagnosed when she was just 18 months old. She’s undergone endless chemotherapy treatments and has enjoyed some good times, and she’s fought through some awfully rough stuff for someone so young.
Through it all, she’s maintained a positive attitude and has become the inspirational leader of the “Mya Strong” movement to help raise money to help people pay for their own medical treatments. None of the money goes to the Gilchrist family.
In the past year, more than $10,000 has been donated from “Mya Strong” to the UIHC Dance Marathon, Camp Heart Connection, local oncology families, scholarships and the UIHC Stead Family Children’s Hospital.
“I think it’s awesome,” Mya said enthusiastically, “because I get to raise money for other people and give back to people who have helped me.”
One of the “Mya Strong” fundraisers is coming to Prospect Meadows with the 2nd Annual Mya Strong Softball Tournament October 10 and 11 for 12U and 14U teams. The entry fee is $250 per team, with all proceeds going to the foundation. There are A, B and C divisions for both age groups.
Mya plays softball herself and also enjoys archery, piano, band and gymnastics. She’s missed quite a bit of school while undergoing treatments, but she’ll be entering the eighth grade in the Alburnett school district this year with a strong thirst for education.
Her new passion is raising money to help other people.
“Can I tell you Mya’s motto?,” her mother, Brooke Gilchrist, asked recently. “Ten percent in life is what happens to you, and 90 percent is how you react.”
Mya agrees entirely.
“It’s not about losing battles,” she said, “it’s about winning.”
Mya has won some of the battles with her brain tumor over the years, but there have been setbacks along the way. The tumor is described right now as “stable,” which means it’s not growing, but not shrinking.
Some of the chemo treatments have lasted 12 to 18 months. There was a long stretch of favorable and encouraging reports, but then came a jarring image in January of 2019 that the tumor was back. The entire family was shaken, but then moved forward again.
“She’s really never thinking about herself,” said Brooke. “When she was diagnosed, she was more worried about how her sister would react.”
Mya’s sister, Leia, is 12. They play together on the Alburnett Pirates youth softball team. They had a game Tuesday night.
“We lost,” Mya reported, “but it was good. I got to hit twice.”
Mya has lost many friends over the years, cancer victims who did not make it. That got Mya thinking about raising money for other cancer patients.
“Mya said we have to help other families,” said Brooke. “Wouldn’t it be so cool to sit down and write a check to help someone?”
The first “Mya Strong” softball tournament in 2019 was suggested by Kristi Caves, Mya’s softball coach. There have been other fundraisers, and now “Mya Strong” has become a national movement.
The Gilchrist family is doing their utmost, for themselves and others.
It’s all about quality of life, said Brooke.
“Unfortunately it’s been a part of our lives,” she said. “We move along day by day.”