FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WFFT) — Fort Wayne Mayor Tom Henry and The Riley Children’s Foundation honored Fort Wayne’s own Maddie Dean today.
Only 11-years-old, Maddie has battled juvenile dermatomyositis since she was three.
“She has had to fight for her life for the last 8 years,” said Angela Dean, Maddie’s mother.
“She has had to deal with a lot of adult situations. I think that's formed who she is as a person today.”
Juvenile dermatomyositis is a rare incurable disease in which the body’s immune system attacks its own cells.
“For us, it has really been a long journey,” said Matt Dean, Maddie’s father. “To have it come full circle is really why it is so special because at first, we were just trying to survive.”
Maddie’s doctors have been inspired by her optimism throughout the treatment process.
“Maddies doesn’t see herself as someone who needs help,” said Susan Ballinger, Maddie’s pediatric rheumatologist at Riley Hospital. “She sees herself as someone who can use her disease to help others.”
Maddie’s condition makes spending time outdoors difficult. She has turned to art and music not only to express herself but to give back to other children in similar situations.
“I found a way that I could express myself and also be able to help Riley,” Maddie said.
Maddie began selling her artwork on her Facebook page “Masterpieces by Maddie.”
Maddie’s optimism and will to keep fighting caught the eyes of both the Riley Children’s Foundation and Mayor Henry.
She was selected to be an ambassador for Riley and was selected at the Children’s Miracle Network Indiana Champion for 2020.
Mayor Henry also proclaimed February 27, 2020, to be “Maddie Dean Day.”
“She represents the entire state of Indiana for the year of 2020,” said Elizabeth Elkas, Riley Children’s Foundation President. “I couldn’t think of a better person this year than Maddie Dean.”
Maddie said she couldn’t describe the feeling that the honor brought her. She hopes to continue to serve as an inspiration for other children at Riley.
“It can always get better, and you can’t give up hope,” Maddie said. “Keep taking it one day at a time, and try to find the joy in everything.”