Stella Miller knew things felt scary and uncertain when she began having seizures and was undergoing testing for an eventual epilepsy diagnosis in August of 2016. The then 8-year-old was in the hospital for an EEG and overnight stay and, then suddenly, a small rainbow-colored Beanie Baby given to her by a nurse brought her great comfort.
Meanwhile, Stella’s mother, Andrea Jenkins, had a heart-to-heart talk with her about some of the fear and anxiety she had been experiencing.
“You know sometimes when you go through a difficult situation, one of the best things you can do is pass it forward and try to help others,” Andrea told Stella. “That, in turn, will make you feel better.”
That talk became the seed for Stella to launch “Team Stella” at her school, W.S. Stinson Elementary in Northwest Local Schools.
“I got a big box and wrapped it with purple glitter wrapping paper and put a sign that said ‘Team Stella’ on it,” Stella said. “And I asked for donations of new teddy bears and stuffed animals for other patients at Akron Children’s Hospital. I collected 100 last year during Epilepsy Awareness Month.”
At the start of her second year, Stella, now 10, set a goal of 200 teddy bears. Her goal was exceeded as Stella, her mom and stepfather, Miguel, delivered 215 bears and other stuffed characters of all colors, shapes and sizes to the hospital on Wednesday morning before her appointment with Dr. Nwankwo.
“Stella is a great ambassador and can make a difference in teaching other children about epilepsy,” said Dr. Nwankwo. “Some children are embarrassed by their seizures or the side effects of their medicines. But it’s always better to talk, share information and raise awareness. It’s always good to know you are not alone.”