GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — When a little girl in St. Joseph had one of the toughest days of her life, she decided to make sure no one else went through what she experienced.
Devyn Whitney, 7, has a birth defect called fibular hemimelia, meaning she was born without her fibulas.
Last summer, Devyn's mom took her and her twin brother to a local art festival in their hometown of St. Joseph. It was a hot day and the kids were running around in their bathing suits, which for Devyn, meant her prosthetic leg was visible.
It was the first time time Devyn felt different.
“I was scared and sad because people were staring at me," Devyn told FOX 17.
Stephanie Watkins, Devyn's mother, says it was hard for her to see her daughter feel alienated.
“She had been around kids and kids had seen it," Stephanie said. "But it was the first time that, you know she really noticed that adults were taking notice and adults were staring and they weren’t doing it to be rude. It’s just, they were curious but we have this stigma in our society that we don’t ask.”
Stephanie says it was a hard experience but a necessary one.
It was what Devyn needed to be motivated to embrace her fibular hemimelia and help others who have it too. She and her family started selling blue "Devyn's Defenders" wristbands for $5. The money will go to Mary Free Bed's Center for Limb Differences.
“It’s gone way above and beyond what we thought was gonna happen," Stephanie says.
They have raised $1,600 for the center, where Devyn has been going since she was 13 months old.
“We met Dr. Forness and it was the first time he had turned my kid into a kid and didn’t turn my kid into a case study," Stephanie says.
Devyn and her family presented Forness and his team with the check for $1,600 at Mary Free Bed on Thursday afternoon.
After six years of treatment, 10 surgeries and countless appointments later, Devyn is just like every other kid. She plays soccer, does cheerleading and wrestling.
Devyn says when she grows up, she wants to work at Mary Free Bed.