Alexis Thompson, 12, of Bismarck, North Dakota, a sixth-grader at Horizon Middle School, started an annual toy drive that has provided gifts for more than 400 adolescent hospital patients, launched a campaign to increase scoliosis awareness and screening, and organized a support group for girls with curvature of the spine. A couple of years ago, Alexis was having a dress altered when her seamstress mentioned that her shoulders looked uneven. When she was evaluated at Shriners Healthcare of Minnesota, doctors found three curves in her spine. After all her tests, she was allowed to pick out a toy from a collection intended to distract patients from uncomfortable or scary procedures. But most of the toys, Alexis noticed, were for younger kids. So she decided to organize a drive to provide toys for kids her age.
She sent out donation request letters to businesses and individuals and posted information on social media. After two drives, Alexis has collected toys and more than $1,500 in cash from donors across North Dakota and even in other states; she delivers toys to the hospital every two months. Realizing that many schools in her state no longer routinely screen children for scoliosis, she contacted media outlets and gave interviews explaining the importance of early detection, and then partnered with a local chiropractor to provide free screenings and information about scoliosis. Alexis also started North Dakota’s first chapter of “Curvy Girls,” an international support group for girls with scoliosis. “Many girls don’t talk about their condition because it causes anxiety or has hurt their confidence,” Alexis explained. “I want girls to know they are not alone and they will get through this.”