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Kindergartner with arthritis uses crayon drive to help kids

January 21, 2019

DETROIT (AP) — She’s got 4-packs and 12-packs, 24-packs and 64-packs and all the sizes in between. There are fat ones and skinny ones. Some of them are glittery, some of them are smelly, others twist.

All of the crayons Brooklyn Brown has collected will benefit sick kids at area children’s hospitals. So far, there are 2,639 packs in all. The 5-year-old from Huntington Woods hopes there’ll be more when she donates them on Martin Luther King Jr. day, a national day of service.

“I know a lot of kids are sick, so I wanted to help them,” Brooklyn, a kindergartner at the Roeper School in Bloomfield Hills, said to the Detroit Free Press .

Brooklyn knows how boring it is to be stuck in a hospital bed.

She has juvenile rheumatoid arthritis, an autoimmune disease that affects as many as 50,000 children in the United States. So when her school called on students to think of ways to help the community, she knew just what to do to take the sting out of hospital stays: Give kids crayons.

“They’re waiting in the hospital for their doctors,” she said while sitting on the floor of her bubble-gum-pink-painted bedroom. “And so they’re not bored, we are giving them crayons ... to color. And you think they don’t have pictures. They actually do at the hospital so we are just giving them crayons. So we have a whole selection right here of crayons for them.”

Her mother, Rychee Brown, explained that hospitals have coloring pages and paper for children, but they can’t reuse crayons because of concerns about disease transmission. It can be expensive to provide new crayons to every child who’s admitted, so Brooklyn’s crayon drive will bring joy to those who wouldn’t otherwise have it.

The family started an Amazon wish list for Brooklyn’s online crayon orders so anyone who’s interested can make contributions. There also is a collection box at the Huntington Woods Public Safety Office for anyone who’d like to drop off crayons.

Brooklyn was diagnosed with juvenile rheumatoid arthritis as an infant, when on one cold day in the late fall of 2013 her mother noticed her baby’s ankles had swelled after playing in her bouncer. Brooklyn had developed an inexplicable rash, too.

The Browns took her to the doctor, but were told she needed to go to the hospital.

“We lived there for a week,” said Brooklyn’s dad, Morris Brown. “They did extensive testing, a spinal tap, everything, just to rule things out.”

They finally got a diagnosis of juvenile rheumatoid arthritis, an autoimmune disease that causes inflammation throughout the body, but especially in the joints of Brooklyn’s hips, knees, ankles and one finger. Her disease is classified as particular, which means it affects four or fewer joints.

Brooklyn’s doctors have prescribed a biologic medication called Enbrel and she also adheres to a special autoimmune diet that her mother said reduces inflammation in her body. She is part of a 12-year study with Duke University on how the diet affects her disease, her mother said. She also keeps active with gymnastics, dancing and swimming.

When she has an arthritis flare, Brooklyn said it’s hard for her to walk or climb the stairs.

“I have to scoot on the floor like a bug,” she said, demonstrating on the hardwood floors in the front room of their house while her dress, which is made with a crayon-covered fabric, swishes around her. Sometimes, she needs a wheelchair to get around, and has to have help doing even simple things, like using the bathroom.

She colors a picture of the Disney princess Ariel, selecting a shade of blue-green to fill in a bubble.

“How about this pretty sparkly color?” she asked, noting that blue is her favorite, and that she also has a fondness for cats, butterflies and turtles.

The Browns hope Brooklyn will grow out of her arthritis.

“A lot of kids will outgrow JRA in their teens,” said Morris Brown. “She’s making great progress, and hopefully we’ll be able to get her off the medicine in a couple years. ... The good news is she seems to be doing really well.”

Brooklyn held a pink and purple microphone stand, and broke into a song she made up about her crayon drive:

You got to have the crayons; they’re in the bed.

You’ve got to give them out in the hospital. ...

It’s the only way you can use them.

I know it’s in your heart.

It has to be a dream come true,

A dream come true,

A dream come true.

Come home,

Come on home,

Come on home.

___

Information from: Detroit Free Press, http://www.freep.com

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