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Non-Profit, American Airlines Send 10-Year-Old With Rare Brain Disease On A Trip To Disney World

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Mike Schuh joined WJZ Eyewitness News as a general assignment reporter...
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BALTIMORE (WJZ)– Anyone who’s endured the serious illness of a child knows how it will turn a family upside down. As Mike Schuh reports, two organizations came together to give such a family from Catonsville a break.

For most of us, an airport can be a pretty stressful place. Is the plane on time? Will my bags make it? Will I even get aboard?

That’s all child’s play compared to what is happening to Emily Kolenda.

“And we started a new treatment and we’re hoping this is going to work,” Kelly Kolenda, Emily Kolenda’s mother, said.

Kelly Kolenda says her daughter has a 50-50 chance to live. Emily Kolenda’s father heard the odds aren’t even that good.

“And I have something on my brain, a brain disease and it’s called ADEM [acute disseminated encephalomyelitis],” Emily Kolenda said.

Just 10 years old, only a handful of people in the world have what she has.

In the past eight months, hospitals and doctors have taken up what was her school day.

“It’s really hard to get daily life done right now,” Kelly Kolenda said.

Enter the Casey Cares Foundation and American Airlines. Emily Kolenda and her crew needed a break, and BWI knew where she wanted to go.

“I’m going to Disney,” Emily Kolenda said.

A journey of healing touching the hearts of strangers.

“You hope God touches her life and heals her up. That’s what you hope,” Doug McVey, a passenger on Emily Kolenda’s flight, said.

“Maybe we can forget about all the treatments for a week and focus on having some fun,” Emily Kolenda’s father Jason Kolenda said.

Schuh: “What do the moms and dads say to you about why something like this is important?”
Casey Baynes, founder and executive director of the Casey Cares Foundation: “‘Thanks for the break’, time and time again. ‘Thanks for the break. We really needed this. How did you know we needed this?'”

They may need more of these. If everything goes well, Emily Kolenda will be in treatment for the next three years.

If Emily Kolenda doesn’t get sick, she and her family will remain in Florida for a week.

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