JENISON, Mich. – Kate Veldink, 17, is a Jenison High School senior living with a rare disease, but she refuses to let that define her. Now West Michigan communities continue the social media push to get Kate on The Ellen DeGeneres Show: to raise awareness for her condition, and show that abilities do not define anyone.
Veldink has Ataxia-Telangiectasia, or A-T, an extremely rare and degenerative disease. Last month, her good friend Maddy Maurice started the twitter handle, @KateOnEllen and now #KateVeldinkOnEllen is constant.
“Yeah it’s huge!” said Veldink. “A-T doesn’t define who we are, and I just want to let everyone know that,” said Veldink.
As Veldink said, her goal is to get onto Ellen to raise awareness for A-T, and show how any diagnosis does not define a person.
FOX 17 last spoke with Veldink shortly after she was crowned Homecoming Queen. On Thanksgiving we sat down with Veldink and her family, when she said she has a lot to be thankful for.
Since the fall, Veldink has undertaken another important role: through a class at school she is an early childhood tutor. It’s a role she said she’s gaining first-hand experience from for the type of teaching she would like to do one day.
“I love it,” said Veldink. “I’ve been working with kindergartners and that’s just really fun.”
Veldink prepares for her years ahead, planning to study early childhood development at Hope College. In the meantime, she’s grateful for communities rallying to get her on Ellen. Even the Jenison High School spirit rock is painted with: #KateVeldinkOnEllen.
“I want to say that I’m thankful for the Jenison community and how supportive they are, and not of only for our family,” said Abby Veldink, Kate’s sister.
“Recently the Jenison community really stepped up to help the Chatfield family and that was just awesome to see another family being so well supported.”
Remembering community members who have made a lasting impact, namely Deputy Matt Chatfield, the Veldink family sat before their Thanksgiving meal and shared thanks.
“I’m thankful for a house that we take for granted,” said Nolan Vos, Kate’s cousin.
Each family member shared they are thankful for their time together, and each hopes they can continue to raise awareness for A-T.
“Raise awareness for A-T and just to spread the message that people with disabilities really are more alike than different than everyone else; that everyone can just be supported by a community and have great friends,” said Abby Veldink.
And then all together, the family cheered, "Kate Veldink on Ellen!"
The Veldink family continues to raise money for A-T research, including their efforts with the A-T Children’s Project. If you would like to get involved or donate, see their website.