Amy Speck-Kern and Gerona at the 2016 Markel/USEF Young Horse Championships (Photo courtesy of SusanJStickle.com)
Wellington, Florida (October 15, 2016) – For Amy Speck-Kern, dressage is a passion that gave her the inspiration to overcome childhood cancer. This passion, combined with cutting edge treatment protocols and the support of her family, friends, and outreach groups, allowed her to defeat Acute Myleoid Leukemia (AML) and pursue her dream of a successful FEI dressage career. Speck-Kern hit a milestone this summer, after qualifying the newly imported KWPN mare Gerona for the 2016 Markel/USEF Young Horse Championships. The pair finished as one of the top 15 ranked 5-year-old combinations in the nation, and through the generous contributions of her family, friends, and colleagues, was able to pay the success forward in the form of a donation to the Kids Cancer Foundation of South Florida. The 501(c)(3) non-profit charity provides hope and support to local children and families battling childhood cancer, and is a reflection of the support and guidance that was so imperative to Speck-Kern’s conquering the disease.
Following her national championship debut, Speck-Kern attended the Kids Cancer Foundation’s Childhood Cancer Awareness Celebration at Lands End Farm in Wellington, Florida. In addition to ponies and face painting, the day of equine fun also centered around raising support and awareness for the children that battle the disease. “It’s important to remember that treatment is just one piece of the puzzle,” said Speck-Kern, “and normally the only one covered by health insurance. Education, support, and resources like psychologists and the camaraderie of other children who are experiencing the same reality are priceless. I love that we can work the horses into the support programs because I know that was a huge drive for me, and to see the kids interacting with them makes it obvious how much of an impact it has.”
Wellington’s equestrian community has a long history of supporting children’s cancer research and the Kids Cancer Foundation. This past winter, the KCF’s team at the Great Charity Challenge placed 3rd overall, earning a donation of $112,500. In September, the Southeast Medal Finals auctioned off a Kids Cancer Foundation custom Wood Craft Solutions jump with all of the proceeds to benefit the KCF. And it’s not just showjumping and dressage: international polo star Nic Roldan is also one of the Kids Cancer Foundation’s Ambassadors, channeling his success on the polo fields into awareness and support for this local charity.
“The equestrian community has always been exceptionally generous and supportive of our organization, and have made a huge difference in the lives of these children and their families,” said Michelle O’Boyle, RN, CPON, founder and executive director of the Kids Cancer Foundation, Inc. “Having survivors and high profile riders like Amy and Nick involved gives the kids hope for their own futures, as they see that there is life after leukemia or childhood cancer and that its worth fighting for.”
To learn more about the Kids Cancer Foundation, visit their website at www.KidsCancersf.org. Help us help them fight!
Amy’s Story: Riding for Childhood Cancer Research
In 2003 and at the age of 18, only barely still considered a child by medical standards, Amy Speck-Kern was diagnosed with Acute Myleoid Leukemia. Known by the acronym AML, this childhood cancer attacks multiple blood cell types, including red blood cells, platelet-forming cells, and white blood cells other than lymphocytes (when leukemia attacks lymphocytes, it is known as acute lymphoblasic leukemia, or ALL). AML represents only 20% of leukemia diagnoses, so Amy and her doctors realized it would be a challenge to successfully defeat the disease.
“They told us they couldn’t guarantee her next month, next week, or even tomorrow,” says Liz Mikutowski, Amy’s mother. With high school graduation quickly approaching, Amy went onto the course of treatment, a newly devised protocol from the Children’s Oncology Group, for which she was one of the first patients. Previous treatments had a 60% survivor rate for AML, and around the time of Amy’s diagnosis, the survival rate experienced a surge up to 90% thanks to advanced research and development into cures for childhood cancer. The new protocol for Amy featured these advancements, and coupled with diet, exercise and the support of family and childhood cancer organizations, she completed the treatment at an accelerated rate. After only 6 months, Amy was cleared of AML, thanks to the tireless work of children’s oncologists, doctors, nurses, and the generous funding, grants, and donations that made the research possible.
“I know that I’m here because of the research,” said Speck-Kern. “The disease and course of treatment inspired me to pursue my passion, and find a way to give back to the cause that has made it possible.” Her passion can be found in the saddle, astride thousand-pound dressage horses she teaches to move and dance in tandem with their riders. Now a professional FEI dressage trainer in Loxahatchee, Florida, she rides, trains, shows, and competes on Wellington’s prestigious international show circuit. After learning from and working with some of the best trainers in the industry, Amy founded Excel Dressage and, leading into the 2016 show season, has begun the process of giving back to childhood cancer research.
For more information on Amy or Excel Dressage, visit www.ExcelDressage.com.
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