Teen turns struggle into inspiration

COAST CITIES — Cathedral Catholic High School, Outreach Through Dance, Feeding the Soul Foundation and Make-A-Wish San Diego have offered their support to Tehya Foussat for the Tehyathon, a 5K fundraiser, an Inspiration Walk, and a Celebration Concert. Doors open at 1 p.m., the sporting event starts at 2 p.m. and the concert ends at 8 p.m. April 21 at Cathedral Catholic High School, 5555 Del Mar Heights Road.This event was inspired to raise awareness of spina bifida, by Foussat, a North County teen and a Make-A-Wish recipient, who lives with the challenges this birth defect.

“When Make-A-Wish San Diego asked me what I wanted, it was easy to answer, I want to celebrate the people who have helped Tehyathon and to inspire others to make a difference in their communities,” said Foussat. “No matter what circumstances you are facing, you always have the choice to inspire people and to celebrate the wonderful things that are happening.”

Tehyathon, Inc. is a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization founded by Foussat and her former teacher, Martin Reisert. The organization offers support to patients and their families who live with the challenges of spina bifida and its related conditions. In addition, they also focus on serving those in need with its Tenderness Totes Program.

The event will feature adaptive sporting events, including wheelchair races. There will be a mini-carnival and a jumper for the children, vendor booths, food trucks and snack booths. There will also be entertainment on the field during the races.

The day will conclude by honoring the Tehyathon Athletes, volunteers and donors with a Celebration Concert sponsored by Feeding the Soul Foundation and Outreach Through Dance, featuring inspirational speakers, singers from the San Diego music scene, hip-hop and contemporary dancers, and other performing artists.

Charitable contributions and donations received throughout the day will benefit the Tehyathon Tenderness Totes Program, which are “survival packs” for the homeless and anyone in need. Tehyathon has distributed more than 600 Tenderness Totes and its current goal is to distribute 1,000 totes by June 1. For more information, visit tehyathon.com.

Foussat was born with the most severe form of spina bifida, Lipomyelomeningocele, which occurs when the spinal cord is exposed through an opening in the spine, resulting in partial or complete paralysis of parts of the body. Foussat’s parents were told before she was born that she might have little to no quality of life. To that they replied, “Well, thank goodness you are not in charge of her quality of life!” So she he grew up without boundaries and there was no activity or sport that was beyond her reach. Soon the girl who wasn’t supposed to walk became a competitive cheerleader, gymnast and swimmer. Even though she’s had multiple surgeries throughout her life, she thrived in her active environment and with the patient support of her gymnastics coach, she was able to tumble and cheer with her teammates.

A few months after her third spinal cord surgery, her medical condition mysteriously deteriorated and she started to lose function. She was no longer able to walk or run, and she suffered from debilitating headaches, neck and back pain, and several other neurological deficits. She was no longer able to attend school regularly and was tutored at home. Once active with friends and after-school activities, she spent her days at doctor appointments and in bed with severe pain.

After months of traveling and endless hours of research, Tehya and her parents were finally able to get the answers that they needed from a specialist in New York. The recommendation was for Foussat to undergo a radical spinal cord surgery, but Tehya and her family decided to try alternative therapies before contemplating another serious operation.

Through all of this, Foussat worked diligently through her pain, and although she missed many days of school due to severe pain and illness, she was able to maintain her 4.0 grade point average. She went on to run for ASB President and won the honor to represent her school.

As the year passed, she continued to struggle through painful days, but she made it through and actually received two awards at her graduation ceremony. She received the Presidential Award for Academic Excellence, for her 4.0 GPA. She also received the “Heart of Our School Award,” which is given to two students each year.

Foussat hopes to make a difference in this world with her positive, uplifting attitude. She found her strength when it was so difficult to continue; she used her talents to compensate for her medical condition, and she is sharing her gifts to support the Spina Bifida community and provide loving care to the homeless and those in need.





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