It's all about giving back to the people who believed in you. 

August 20, 2013

Hey Everyone, It's Kalyn. 

In light of the relaunch of Symbols of Encouragement Foundation, I wanted to talk with you a little bit about why I decided to do this. From October 1999 to April 2000, I was a pediatric patient at University of South Alabama Children's and Women's hospital. I told myself long ago that if I ever got out of my illness, that I'd do everything I can to give back. In October 1999, I was diagnosed with a pancreatic condition that had no known origin. On that day, I began a 13 year (in counting!) journey that taught me how to hope for the impossible, love unconditionally, and give what you have to others... no matter how bad your situation may seem.

There were days that were far from easy. I went from an athletic 12 year old who was active in 7th grade to someone with depleted energy now having to carry two IV poles. For nourishment, I had a port that went from my neck and into a major artery in my heart. From October 1999 to January 2000, I went from 90 lbs to 69 lbs. By February, I will have dropped to 58 lbs. I lost count after that, honestly. 

I spent my 7th grade year in the hospital. Thanks to what is now known as the Mapp Child and Family Life program, I was able to continue my studies. This program had two Mobile County teachers on hand to administer my schoolwork. These two teachers are still there today. 

I also made friends in the hospital, including some doctors! One of my doctors gave me some agate power beads as a way to encourage me to stay strong. I never took them off, and they're the basis of my foundation today. 

I thought I was completely cleared from my pancreatic illness, but in 2007, life has a way of throwing you back into things. From 2007-2012, I dealt with new complications, having to have ERCP procedures every 3-6 months. They were to go on indefinitely. In May 2012, the unthinkable happened: I was cleared from everything completely. And through it all, I created Symbols of Encouragement as part of my Master's Thesis at the University of West Florida. 

I know I have talked quite a bit! (My friends say I do that a lot). But I wanted to share with you my story. The main reason of starting this is that I want to give back. I want to turn my suffering into something positive and let you know that if you're going through something right now... you're not alone. Anything is possible. And you have the power to encourage life, hope, and love. 

Thank you all so much for the support. I never would have thought that my final project for the Master's program would turn into such a powerhouse for good things across the country and around the world. You are all wonderful people.

Take care, and encourage life, hope, and love.

Kalyn Wolfe
Founder, Symbols of Encouragement