For companies like Casey’s, supporting their community and giving back is not only part of their mission, but it also helps define them as a company. Over the past nine years, Casey’s has supported MDA and the MDA Summer Camp program by raising more than $6.6 million. Their support has helped kids with muscular dystrophy and related muscle-debilitating diseases experience a weeklong camp experience where anything is possible and that is designed and planned just for them.
“It means the world to have sponsors like Casey’s who have given many of my friends and me the opportunity to reach our full potential and experience so many amazing things at camp,” says Halie. “I don’t think I’ll be able to thank them enough.”Halie of Cedar Falls, Iowa, is one of thousands of kids who has been fortunate to attend MDA Summer Camp. She’s also enjoyed having the opportunity to meet many of the Casey’s associates who help make camp possible.
Halie first became introduced to Casey’s seven years ago when she attended a manager meeting, sharing her story and saying “thank you” during their summer camp pinup campaign.
Like so many kids, MDA Summer Camp has been a life-changing experience for Halie.
“Outside of summer camp, people see the way I walk or notice the challenges that come with my disease first,” says Halie. “But, at MDA Summer Camp, I don’t have to fight to be seen as me. It’s shown me how to better communicate with people, and it means so much to know and spend time with others that understand what it’s like to live with muscular dystrophy and to make those vital connections.”
Halie’s summer camp cabin mates have been together for the past seven summers and consider themselves more like family, keeping in touch and spending time together throughout the year.
“We’re excited Halie has the opportunity to experience camp and are grateful to sponsors that help make it possible,” says Tammy, Halie’s mom. “And, we love Casey’s not only because they’re based in Iowa where we’re from, but because they are just incredible. Their employees always go above and beyond. To motivate customers for someone they don’t know — it’s just really special. When we visit Casey’s stores, it’s so neat to see them get excited and hopefully encourage them to get even more involved.”
From participating in local MDA Muscle Walk events and attending the Iowa MDA Muscle Team Galas, to visiting as many Casey’s stores as they can, Halie and her family are wonderful ambassadors for MDA. And, it’s made them local celebrities, too. While on a road trip, Halie was recognized in a Casey’s store by store associates and then realized her picture was on the back wall (as part of their promotion of the MDA campaign). She was able to meet with the associates and store manager while she was there. “They started talking with her and took her picture,” Tammy remembers. “It was so funny and so sweet.”
Living Unlimited is a Family Affair
“It’s always our philosophy that we can do anything, but we may need to do it differently,” says Paul, Halie’s dad. “There’s no rule book and we’re figuring it all out as we go, but she’s always been able to adapt and overcome so much.”
Halie dreams big and sets her goals high, including getting her driver’s license and playing in the drumline in the high school marching band next year.
“She got her [driver’s] permit last year and was so excited,” explains Tammy. “We want her to be independent. So we’re working with her to find out the options for her to be able to drive.”
Halie may need hand controls when the time comes to getting on the road, but she adds: “I’m in occupational therapy to make sure I’m ready to drive safely, and I love it. I feel so free when I’m driving.”
Growing up listening to Bon Jovi and AC/DC and learning to play the guitar at age 8, Halie is one of the coolest 14-year-olds you’ll meet. “Music is very special to me,” says Halie. “It’s a way I can express myself.”
This year was her fourth year in the band, which is one of her favorite classes in school. She loves concerts and is planning to see Metallica in concert this summer at the new US Bank Arena in Minneapolis with her dad.
“She’s a mad cow bell player,” her dad laughs. “Halie has a huge interest in music, and it’s been really special to expose her to the big arenas.”
Halie’s perseverance and fearlessness to achieve her dreams – and continue to dream even bigger – is such an inspiration. And her ability to see beauty – and make beauty through music – is a very special gift to us all.
“People are living longer and the idea of living unlimited is really encouraging – a great reminder and inspiration that everyone can and should live a very happy, fulfilling life. And, that having a disability doesn’t define you,” says Halie.