by Polly Keary, Editor
– Monroe Monitor –
If Monroe’s Cassidy Miller is assigned an essay on “What I did this summer,” Cassidy will have a better story to tell than most.
Cassidy, who loves riding bikes with her dad, felt bad that her severely disabled best friend, Jayda, couldn’t ride a bike with her own family.
So last spring the fourth-grader got the idea to raise money for a Wyke, a special trailer for disabled children that attaches to a bicycle.
She spent all summer raising $1,005 for the trailer, tax and shipping, and before the end of summer vacation, she presented Jayda with the opportunity to enjoy the classic pastime of childhood, bicycling with her friends and family in the neighborhood.
Cassidy, whose lives with her parents and three siblings in the Salem Woods area, met Jayda about two years ago, and her new friendship revived an old friendship for her mother, Shannon.
The family had just moved back to the area from Lake Stevens, and were living in the Duvall area. Cassidy started going to Cherry Valley Elementary, and she began talking about a girl in a wheelchair.
“Cassidy would come in every day and give me a Jayda report,” said Shannon, who grew up in Carnation. “It turned out I went to school with her mother.”
Cassidy was in second grade then, and Jayda was in first grade. But although Jayda couldn’t do many of the activities second-grade girls enjoy, and indeed, could only say a few words and couldn’t wheel her own chair, she and Cassidy developed a strong friendship.
Jayda’s mom, Kerry Gould, had made a website for Jayda, and Cassidy liked visiting the website and learning about Jayda’s condition.
She learned that her younger friend had survived a harrowing health crisis as an infant.
Jayda was born healthy and developed normally, and her mom wrote that by eight months old, she was a ‘turbo crawler.” But Jan. 3 of 2005 she fell ill at daycare, and became unresponsive. She was rushed to Evergreen, where she had two seizures in front of a baffled pediatrician who could identify nothing to explain them.
Jayda then went to ICU at Children’s Hospital, where the formerly bubbly infant continued to have seizures nearly constantly. By day five, MRIs began to show brain damage. Four days after that, she developed a life-threatening chest infection.
It took more than two weeks for her to recover from the infection and a virus, and it was more than a month before she came back home.
She had been lucky to survive. She was finally diagnosed with hemorrhagic shock encephalopathy syndrome, which is fatal 60 percent of the time.
There were ongoing struggles with medications and with as many as 30 seizures a day, but photos from those days often show a chubby baby with curly blond hair and a big smile in spite of the tubes into her stomach and nose.
Finally, a high-fat, low-carb diet helped drastically reduce her seizures and her condition stabilized.
She was able to say a few words, including people’s names, and she could use a special walker with help. Her strength grew, as did she, and she was able to go to school with her peers.
One thing her mother had worried about was the possibility that it would be hard for Jayda to make friends.
But soon she had a very good friend in Cassidy, and they got together for play dates and parties.
The next year, Cassidy and her family moved to a handsome house in the Salem Woods area, and Cassidy switched schools. But she and Jayda maintained their friendship.
It was at Jayda’s birthday party in April that Cassidy got the idea for the Wyke, and she immediately announced that she was going to raise the money to get one.
Both mothers were charmed, but skeptical.
“It was like, ‘oh, honey,’” said Shannon with a smile.
“I said, ‘oh, that’s so sweet,’” said Kerry Gould. “I didn’t think anything of it at the time.”
But a few days later, it was clear Cassidy was serious.
“She and her dad got the idea to make a flyer with ideas of things she could do to earn money, like weeding and pet sitting,” said Shannon.
They made a flyer with a picture of Cassidy and Jayda together, and a short note explaining Cassidy’s mission and a little about Jayda’s disability.
“My goal is to raise $750 to buy her a special bike stroller so she is not stuck in her wheelchair all the time,” Cassidy wrote, before listing the services she could provide and the hours she was available.
“I have attached Jayda’s story for everyone to meet my best friend and see the smile that she brings with her everywhere she goes,” Cassidy finished. “Thank you for any support you can give. I am looking forward to going for a bike ride with Jayda this summer.”
Cassidy got lots of little jobs and some donations, too, and she went to her father’s workplace at Pacific Aluminum in Maltby and sold candy. She also sent out cards and made posters.
“I weeded, cat sat, sold candy, helped a preschool class and I worked for my teachers in their classrooms and made cards for one of the secretaries,” said Cassidy, a slight girl of 9 with a freckled nose and a remarkably mature poise for a girl her age.
Even her younger siblings, Audrey, 7, Charlotte, 5, and Tate, 4, pitched in and donated from what they had.
By August, they had enough for the Wyke.
“We had 21 extra cents,” said Cassidy.
It cost $1,005 to have it shipped, and it arrived from Canada Aug. 18.
Cassidy and her family sent a card of thanks to all who donated, and then had a little get-together with Jayda’s family to present the bike.
Jayda’s dad couldn’t be there because he was working out of the country, but Cassidy’s dad was able to assemble the Wyke and attach it to Kerry’s bike, and Jayda was settled in.
She was a little sleepy that day, but she woke up and smiled. Cassidy and her family joined Kerry and her family on their bikes and made a procession down the street.
“We stopped at our friend’s house, and Jayda was asleep,” Cassidy said.
Since then, though, she’s enjoyed the Wyke, said her mother.
“She’s a girl that has always liked the wind in her hair,” said Kerry. “She’s in Miracle League, and her favorite part is being pushed as fast as possible around the bases. Any time we get going fast, she smiles.”
It gave her family an opportunity to do things together, too, said Kerry.
“It was a bummer to know that the boys liked to do some things we couldn’t do with Jayda, like a hike or a bike ride, so we’d wait until Jayda was at summer school or another place to do those things so we wouldn’t feel guilty for leaving her behind. And now we don’t have to, with bike rides, at least.”
Now that school is back in session, Jayda and Cassidy don’t get as much play time as they did over the summer, but they are still in touch.
And Cassidy, who her mother says has a deep affinity for children with disabilities, has made a new friend at her new school who has some disabilities.
“It’s so interesting to see this manifest itself at such an early age, the way she can relate to kids with special needs,” said Shannon.
Kerry said that she hopes people find out about Jayda’s friend.
“I would love the world to know about Cassidy,” she said. “She is such an amazing young lady. I can’t wait to see what she does. I know it will be something big.”