Wolfson Children’s Challenge: Virtual Edition

Fundraiser honors former patients like Mya Simmons of Oakleaf

For Clay Today
Posted 2/17/21

JACKSONVILLE – Hundreds of families and supporters nationwide participated in the 12th annual Wolfson Children’s Challenge: Virtual Edition, celebrating former patients of Wolfson Children’s …

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Wolfson Children’s Challenge: Virtual Edition

Fundraiser honors former patients like Mya Simmons of Oakleaf


JACKSONVILLE – Hundreds of families and supporters nationwide participated in the 12th annual Wolfson Children’s Challenge: Virtual Edition, celebrating former patients of Wolfson Children’s Hospital of Jacksonville and raising funds for lifesaving care. Wolfson Children’s is the region’s only not-for-profit children’s hospital, serving children of all ages. No child is ever turned away due to inability to pay.

The first virtual format allowed the iconic Jacksonville event to expand beyond Northeast Florida borders and encourage participants in communities across the country to recruit their families and friends to get active and fundraise.

Children and families of all ages, fitness levels and abilities participated in the month-long challenge via the Wolfson55 mobile app. The innovative event experience allowed users access to virtual challenges, features to monitor their physical activity, tools to track individual and team fundraising progress, and a virtual closing ceremony celebration. While the races were not timed this year, fitness-minded participants had the opportunity to log their miles and minutes for the various activity challenges.

The event’s inclusive and accessible activity challenges included a 20K individual walk/run and a 200K team walk/run. Participants also had the unique opportunity to put their own creative mark on fundraising with weekly social and compassion challenges such as notes of encouragement, game nights, animal-inspired workouts and more.

Almost 400 children and families from across 15 states participated in this year’s challenge, logging 1,532.83 kilometers of physical activity on the Wolfson55 app in January. Together, participants and supporters raised more than $96,000 to help fund the purchase of life-saving trauma equipment and technology for our most critical patients at Wolfson Children’s.

The Wolfson Children’s Challenge honors 55 children each year, representing the wide range of services Wolfson Children’s Hospital offers to children of North Florida, South Georgia and beyond. Each of the honorees and their families were recognized leading up to and throughout the event, as well as during the virtual closing ceremony on Jan. 30.

One of the 55 children is Mya Simmons from Oakleaf. When her mother, Miriam, gave birth to Mya in October 2018, she already knew from ultrasounds that her baby had a fight ahead. At 30 weeks pregnant, Simmons learned her unborn baby had a mass on her brain, which later turned out to be hemimegaloencephaly, a disorder that causes one half of the brain to be larger than the other. This serious condition leads to seizures. Almost immediately after Mya entered this world, she started seizing. She was transported via Kids Kare Mobile ICU to the high-level Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at Wolfson Children’s, where she remained for several weeks. Unfortunately, Mya continued having seizures once she went home.

During a follow-up visit at Wolfson Children’s, it was also determined that Mya had a second neurosurgical condition called craniosynostosis, the premature fusion of one or more of the sutures (growth plates) in the skull. This occurs in about three of every 10,000 live births worldwide.

Mya had two brain surgeries in one day.

At just 6 months old, Mya underwent a more-than-13-hour surgery at Wolfson Children’s Hospital for both of her conditions.

“They were wheeling her away and her little body didn’t even take up half the bed,” Miriam Simmons said. “I’ll always remember how she just looked so little.”

First, pediatric neurosurgeon Nathan Ranalli, MD, medical director of Wolfson Children’s Craniofacial, Spasticity and Brachial Plexus Programs, performed surgery for craniosynostosis. This involved removing the bone at the top of the skull where the growth plate had prematurely closed. Immediately after, his colleague, pediatric neurosurgeon Alexandra Beier, DO, medical director of Wolfson Children’s Pediatric Epilepsy Program, performed surgery to address Mya’s seizures.

“Each year, the Wolfson Children’s Challenge brings together hundreds of supporters to help turn miles into miracles for our children who need it most,” said Michael D. Aubin, FACHE, president of Wolfson Children’s Hospital. “Despite being virtual in order to keep everyone safe, this year’s challenge was just as powerful, even though individuals and families supported us from a distance. We are grateful for the generosity of our region and everyone who participated, as it ensures we can continue providing the best care for our children for years to come.”

To date, the Wolfson Children’s Challenge has raised more than $4 million for the Wolfson Children’s Challenge Endowment, helping fund the purchase of life-saving equipment and technology for our patients who need it most. This year, the endowment will focus on the development of an MIBG therapy room on the oncology floor of Wolfson Children’s Hospital. As the first of its kind in Florida, the new room will give Wolfson Children’s the ability to offer the newest upfront treatment for children with high-risk neuroblastoma, the most common solid tumor of childhood cancer.

MIBG therapy is a form of radiation therapy that must be administered to pediatric patients in a special room designed to protect staff, patients and families in surrounding rooms from radiation. During the treatment, patients must be kept isolated in the specialized room for three to seven days to prevent radiation exposure to other patients and staff. The Wolfson Children’s Hospital room that is being converted for this purpose already has a separate, adjoining living space to accommodate parents and families. Voice and video communication equipment will be installed in the rooms, allowing families and patients to remain connected.

Services provided at Wolfson Children’s Hospital are provided primarily by pediatric physician specialists with Nemours Children’s Specialty Care, Jacksonville, University of Florida College of Medicine – Jacksonville, UPMC Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh (for cardiac surgery services) and Emergency Resources Group.

The Wolfson Children’s Emergency and Rehabilitation Series are located on Fleming Island and a Wolfson Emergency Room is in Oakleaf.


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