Where Are They Now? The Life and Times of a Miss You Can Do It! Queen

Katie VandeMoortel, 2007 Ms. You Can Do It! says that her Challenger League baseball coaches helped her win the title. They taught her to calm her onstage and interview jitters by taking a big, deep cleansing, relaxing breath just like before getting up to bat at a game. The pageant experience provided her with an opportunity to meet and interact with other girls. She loves coming back to the pageant and she looks forward each year to seeing the friends  she met during her pageant years. She has been inspired by the other contestants and by all of the people who volunteer to make this pageant a night of magic. She is employed as a feeding aide at Black Hawk Area Education Center. She is a member of the Happy Joe’s team for Challenger League baseball and participates in the Great River Challenge. Katie has been active in Young Life’s Capernaum Next Step and has volunteered twice at “work weeks” to prepare a camp for hundreds of high school summer campers. Katie is a volunteer at Sacred Heart Church in Moline where she is a money counter. The determination, focus, enthusiasm and persistence that she exhibited during the pageants is evident in her daily life as she battles the effects of Prader-Willi Syndrome. She diligently works out at a water aerobics class at Black Hawk College, where she also swims laps like a fish and has a personal best of 3/4 of a mile in one hour, that’s really kicking it! Just Dance 2 for Wii provides her with hours of fun, aerobic exercise. Kathleen walks at home on a treadmill and hikes at Prospect Park, finding that using hiking sticks gives her a boost. She bowls in a Thursday night women’s league.Image Her favorite activity of all is being Aunt Katie to her adorable nephew Cohen and sweet niece Sophia and making them extraordinaryily creative birthday cakes. Kathleen’s enthusiasm for the pageant has encouraged many of her students and fellow baseball players to participate in the pageant. She is anxious to bring her crown out of it’s box and return to Utopia for a night again this year.

A perfect sign happened to be hanging behind her for this photo.

2015 revision:
Along with Cohen and Sophia, Katie is aunt to Ellie Joy.
Katie has attended Wonderland Camp’s PWS week three times and always wishes that it lasted longer.

 

2016 revision:
Katie died peacefully in her sleep January 25, 2016. She would have been 30 years old in April. She wore her MYCDI crown to her visitation which was unbelievably attended by over 800 community members who mourned Katie lovingly. She is remembered and missed constantly.
Two loves she did not get to meet, niece Mae Anne and nephew Everett Paul were expected to be born on her birthday, but arrived April 14, 2016

I was told the good friends at the MYCDI pageant 2016 took a moment to remember Katie. I was deeply moved to hear that happened.

 

2017 revision:

Katie will be mentioned in a Jenni Pulos article for the Parade magazine featuring MYCDI.

Katie’s brother, Jacob penned the perfect epitaph for his sister. Something a brother should never have to do, but he has always done things for her that no brother should have to do. He, too, loves well and is well loved.

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The Wonder of Challenger Little League

Imagine a baseball game where there are no strikes, no balls, no outs. Where everyone gets to hit, everyone gets to swing until the pitcher can make the ball hit the bat as it swings by. Where the first baseman gives the batter a high five when he/she reaches first base. Where a runner steps off of second base to go to third, but gets distracted and heads to the outfield……the second baseman leaves his base to chase the opposing player down, only to turn her around and run with her to make sure she gets safely to third base. Where the spectators cheer uproariously for both teams and every player. Where the fans have hands that are red from clapping so hard and eyes that are red from tears of joy, excitement, and pride. Where parents get to sit back and watch their child PLAY with other children (often times this is the only place that happens). Where a player stops to stare at the crowd bewildered because people are calling his name and cheering for HIM. Where every movement a player makes is made with 100% effort, concentration and determination.

Now, imagine a sunny, warm fall evening with an orange sun setting in the West while a full yellow moon rises in the East. The lights of the bridge sparkle on the dark Mississippi below. The smell of hot dogs and charcoal waft through the air. The cool breeze off of the river keeps the bugs from lighting on us. Listening, you hear the laughter, the clapping, the “hiddey-hiddey-hiddey-ho” from the announcer’s booth and then you hear the distinct sound of a ball hitting a bat at just the right spot, you look skyward and see that ball sailing in a huge arc from home plate to third base. The Powerful Player who hit the ball starts running toward first, but pauses to see what the ball is doing……what that ball is doing is dropping from the sky and landing smack dab center into the waiting glove of the startled and ecstatic third baseman. The crowd goes wild, the coaches swarm the field, the third baseman’s hand stings from the impact of the ball and all of the congratulatory high fives. The Powerful Player doesn’t continue to run to first base, even though an out has never been counted before. He saw that fly ball being caught and knew without any hesitation that if anything was ever going to be an out, that catch was it………this is what happened when the last player of the game was up on that incredible night during the First Annual Great River Challenge. Amazement and awe filled Modern Woodmen284198_10150750282085693_27915_n stadium.
Iowa and Illinois Challenger teams joined to play ball at a minor league stadium. Last game of the day under the lights….exciting……

more photos: https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.274010080692.311176.552540692&type=1&l=8b314643f5

Things I have learned living on the periphery of hunger for 26 years.

Twenty six years ago was the first time I had ever heard the words Prader-Willi Syndrome. I have lived with Prader-Willi Syndrome ever since. I am not afflicted with it, so I feel I only have the right to tell you what it is like to live on the periphery of it. Its hunger does not consume me, I only see how it consumes my daughter, with whom I live. She lives with Prader-Willi Syndrome and I float along the edge of it doing whatever I am capable of to make her life easier. She turned 26 years old April 26, 2012. She is the same age I was when she was born.

I look at the 26 year olds I know and am shocked  their bright-eyed optimism and innocence was mine until 4/26/86. We made it past the 18 month mark and the teens, both landmark ages we were warned about at the time of diagnoses.  There has been laughter and tears, more often than not they have been simultaneous. Which is why I agree with Truvey from Steel Magnolias, “Laughter through tears is my favorite emotion” : ) I marvel at so much I have learned along the way. So much I cannot even explain.  What I know for certain is “no man is an island” and life is easier because of that. I would not have survived without all of you, my family and friends, the amount of your love, compassion and support are beyond my scope of comprehension.

“In the entire history of the universe, let alone in your own history, there has never been another day just like today, and there will never be another just like it again. Today is the point to which all your yesterdays have been leading since the hour of your birth. It is the point from which all your tomorrows will proceed until the hour of your death. If you were aware of how precious today is, you could hardly live through it. Unless you are aware of how precious it is, you can hardly be said to be living at all.” ~Frederick Buechner217184_10150578090445693_8118940_n

Can you think of anyone who lives each day with awareness of
how precious it is?
How often do we take the time to realize the significance of each day?
Something in each day has an effect on who we are and how we affect the lives of others.
If we would be cognizant of that fact and of how precious each moment is, would we do anything differently in a day?
Would we be able to live through it?
Some days seem more precious in our memories than others.
Some, more significant.
This day, April 26Th, 1986 was the
most precious,
most significant,
most defining
day in my life.
A day which shaped all of
my tomorrows,
that day formed the
woman I am today.
That day ushered out
the self-centered,
righteous, pompous me
and welcomed me into an adventure
that would teach me
humility,
faith,
agape,
perseverance,
patience,
gratitude,
tolerance,
hope,
and one of the most difficult of all things;
the ability to accept the
generosity of another,
to welcome their kindnesses.
I’m not sure why it should be so difficult,
but even after all these years, it is.
I don’t know if it because accepting
the kindnesses of others, exposes
the fact I am so very needy and vulnerable…..
perhaps that is the reason.
I think the reality of the difficulty
of accepting another’s kindness
comes mostly from the awareness
of how precious it is.
As Buechner says, ” if we are aware, we could
hardly live through it.”
So, when you are being ever so kind to me,
as is so often the case,
please understand
I am choking up, puddling up, or straight out
bawling like a baby,
because
I can hardly live through
how precious your kindness
is to me.
On this date in 1986, I unwillingly joined
a sub-sect of society I wanted no part of.
I became the parent of
a “special needs” child.
Today- this day like no other,
I am thinking of the incredible young woman
my child has become.
Today- this day like no other,
I am thinking of me and trying
to be aware of how precious each
day is.
Today – this day like no other,
I am thinking of you-
and how precious you are to me.
Thank you.
Katie’s mom –Anne