When Elisabeth Harkins was first told that she was going to have to wear a brace on her back because of scoliosis, a curvature of the spine, the 13-year-old was a little self-conscious.
But it didn’t take long for her to get over it and realize that it is now a part of who she is, and now she helps other girls get through issues they are having with scoliosis. Elisabeth started a Georgia/South Carolina Chapter of Curvy Girls, a support group for those with scoliosis, after finding that there are not any local support groups. She is one of two members in the group and hopes that others will join.
“We are trying to get the word out to get more involved. She can’t be the only child in North Augusta with scoliosis,” said Elisabeth’s grandmother, Lisa Sistare-Harkins.
There is also a Facebook support group, Curvy Girls Scoliosis Support Group, which allows parents and girls to communicate.
Curvy Girls support groups often meet monthly and visit the hospital when members are having surgery, but most importantly they offer emotional support, Sistare-Harkins said.
June is Scoliosis Aware-ness Month and Elisabeth and her grandmother are doing a cake fundraiser and Facebook auction to raise money to attend the Curvy Girls national convention June 28-30 in Long Island, N.Y. She estimates that the trip will cost $2,400. Cakes are being sold at $10 each.
“We have made 12 so far,” Elisabeth said, adding that she likes strawberry-flavored cake.
Elisabeth said she is looking forward to the convention and she will model her back brace, which is painted with Hello Kitty, while she is there. The convention will also have workshops to teach about spine health and medical advances.
“I think it will be educational for her,” Sistare-Harkins said.
Scoliosis hasn’t kept Elisabeth from doing the things she loves. She still does ballet, tap and jazz and plays soccer.
“She can do pretty much everything, she just has to take the brace off,” Sistare-Harkins said.
Elisabeth said being in a back brace feels like being a turtle, but the goal is for it to come off in two years.
A member of Girl Scouts, Elisabeth is spreading awareness about scoliosis for her Silver Award project. As a part of the project, she is reaching out to the schools and trying to make scoliosis screenings routine.
She is a member of the student council and anti-bullying club at North Augusta Middle School, and plays saxophone in the school band.
An online Facebook auction on the Team Elisabeth page will be held this week, beginning Thursday, and donated items for bid include tanning, photography, massages, jewelry and other items. If anyone would like to donate an item for an auction to be held at a later date or are interested in purchasing a cake or donating to the cause, they can contact Sistare-Harkins at firstname.lastname@example.org or call (980) 875-8620.