BEVERLY — Mary Cate Lynch of Beverly has been named the patient champion for Aon Step Up for Kids, a charity stair climb benefiting the Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children's Hospital of Chicago.
This charitable offshoot of the Streeterville hospital provides art and music therapists, social workers and child life specialists for patients and families coping with a child’s illness and hospitalization.
“Hospitals can be scary places for kids,” said Mary Cate's mom, Kerry Ryan Lynch. “To have child life specialists available in the reading room or visiting a child before surgery with a toy or a book to take their mind off their procedure is huge.”
Mary Cate Lynch, 6, was diagnosed with Apert syndrome shorty after birth by genetics specialists at Lurie Children’s Hospital. This rare disorder results in extra bones and cartilage, causing a misshapen skull and melded fingers and toes.
Rather than shrink from the diagnosis, Mary Cate and her mom reached out to junior high students throughout the area to talk about what it means to look different and the importance of inclusion.
Students are asked to read the book ahead of meeting Mary Cate, which drives home the underlying message. The Lynches have visited more than 100 schools since May 2012.
“It’s important to teach kids about differences,” Lynch said. “When they meet Mary Cate, they see that although she looks different on the outside, she’s just like them on the inside.”
At Lurie Children’s Hospital, Mary Cate’s care team has included specialists in orthopaedics, neurosurgery, plastic surgery, otolaryngology, ophthalmology and sleep medicine. She has no developmental delays and is doing well at Christ the King School in Beverly, Lynch said.
Kerry Ryan Lynch is also part of a team called My Mary Cate that will make the climb to the top of the Aon Center. The team of more than a dozen people also includes Ald. Matt O'Shea (19th) and had raised $2,320 as of Wednesday morning.
Tim Carlson of Beverly is also on the team and met the Lynch family while working in O'Shea's office. He felt it was important to support the cause as well as help out others like Mary Cate while they are in the hospital.
"Every time I see [Mary Cate] she’s got a smile on her face, and she’s excited for a high five. She never lets her circumstances hold her back at all," Carlson said.