The fourth annual Alyssa's Ride 2019 is set for June 8 and participants are eager to honor a young woman who made a deep impression on them for her dedication to helping people.
By RIMSIE MCCONIGA
The fourth annual Alyssa’s Ride 2019 is set for June 8 and participants are eager to honor a young woman who made a deep impression on them for her dedication to helping people.
Living life to the fullest was important to Alyssa Hutchens, whether it was playing volleyball with the girls, shooting hoops with the boys, hunting and fishing with her dad, riding 4-wheelers and jet skis, watching sports, taking care of her 4-H animals, going on family vacations, especially cruises (she loved to snorkel), and spending time with friends.
At just 5 years old, Alyssa loved sports and became an avid athlete. She played competitive volleyball, basketball and softball. Her childhood dream was to go to college to play basketball and then become a nurse. But that all came to a sudden halt in February 2011, when just 13 years old, she collapsed at home and was rushed to her local doctor. She was then transported to a hospital by ambulance and then life-flighted to Children’s Mercy Hospital by the Critical Care Transport Team.
Alyssa had contracted H1N1 influenza, accompanied by strep and pneumonia. She also developed sepsis and suffered organ failure. She was only given a 20% chance to survive, but she recovered and decided she wanted to become a critical care transport nurse. She received her CNA license and began working at a senior living center.
She had to give up the sports she loved but her parents made sure she could still stay active.
“She had a love for the outdoors so we bought her a 4-wheeler,” says her mother, Amy Hutchens. “She would spend hours riding it around the house or we would go on family rides down the country roads. Then the family learned about the McLouth, Kansas, ATV Poker Run held each summer in June. Alyssa and her dad attended two years in a row where they each rode their own ATV.”
While working at the senior living center, Alyssa became ill again.
“From her hospital bed, Alyssa shared plans with me to visit Uganda, Africa, and the children impacted by water wells built in memory of her cousin, Jesse Parker,” says Amy. “Sadly, Alyssa passed away unexpectedly at the young age of 16 before she could reach Africa. Through an anonymous donation and fundraising, a well was drilled in honor of Alyssa in the village of Nsozibyre, in rural Uganda. Before this well, children walked several miles down steep terrain to collect water in a muddy hole. With the opening of this new well, more than 2,100 people have access to clean water for the first time in their lives.”
Alyssa’s parents had the opportunity to visit Alyssa’s well in 2015, and it was life-changing for her family to know water wells are making such a positive difference in the village. The family decided to designate a portion of the proceeds from three successful Alyssa’s Rides to drill another well in honor of Alyssa. The well was drilled and completed in December 2018 at the Butaalunga Primary School in Uganda. This well brings clean water to approximately 2,000 people. Alyssa’s family is planning to travel to Uganda this summer to bless the well and celebrate Alyssa’s life with the local villagers.
“In June 2015, the McLouth ATV Poker Run was cancelled due to reasons beyond their control,” says Amy.
In March, 2016, Remembering Alyssa Inc. was approved as a nonprofit organization focusing on raising money to empower youth and adults to make a difference through education, make a hospital experience more comfortable for children, keep families with hospitalized children close to each other and give hope through clean water to those in Uganda.
“In memory of Alyssa and her love of the first McLouth ATV Poker Run she ever attended, her dad and I began an annual ATV ride in June 2016 to celebrate her life and make an impact through giving,” said Amy.
During her years of medical struggles Alyssa served as a volunteer at Children’s Mercy Hospital in physical therapy, as well as Critical Care Transport, Ronald McDonald House Charities in Kansas City and Catholic Charities – Leavenworth Emergency Assistance Center in the Friendly Visitors Program that pairs compassionate volunteers with homebound seniors who live alone, as well as those with disabilities who need caring, friendly people to visit, call or lend a helping hand.
“After Alyssa slowly recovered from her near- death illness in 2011, she began fundraising to help children and families battling illnesses,” says Amy. “While Alyssa was in the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit, her dad and I stayed in the Ronald McDonald Family Room as well as the Ronald McDonald House across the street from the hospital. Alyssa wanted to continue to ‘give back’ to Ronald McDonald Charities for everything they did for her family while she was hospitalized.”
As a patient Alyssa knew that all the physical and occupational therapists had been instrumental in getting her life back on track. They taught her to use her hands again to write, eat, text and of course — dribble a basketball. She had to relearn how to walk, jump, run and regain her strength. But when she had, she devoted much of her time to volunteering to help patients. She volunteered in Critical Care Transport because she wanted to learn everything there was to learn about the department and give back to those who once saved her life.
Alyssa also collected plastic bags at home and delivered them weekly to the Emergency Assistance Center to be used in the food pantry. “Alyssa was also an active member of the Army of Christ Youth Group where she impacted many people in the community,” says Amy.
While serving as a volunteer at the Ronald McDonald House, one of the things most important to Alyssa was collecting pop tabs and loose keys to recycle.
The proceeds from recycling these items helped pay the bills at the Ronald McDonald House. Alyssa then began conducting presentations at local schools promoting the collection of pop tabs and loose keys for the Ronald McDonald House. In 2013, Alyssa also began serving as a volunteer at Children’s Mercy in the Physical Therapy Department, helping in an area where she was once a patient.
One-hundred percent of all the ride’s proceeds benefit Alyssa’s favorite charities which include Children’s Mercy Hoops for Happiness Project, Ronald McDonald House Charities of Kansas City, A Chance to Save a Life Scholarship and Alyssa Lane Hutchens Family Memorial Scholarship at Pleasant Ridge High School, Alyssa Lane Hutchens Critical Care Transport Scholarship at Children’s Mercy, Catholic Charities-Leavenworth Emergency Assistance Center and the Leavenworth County Suicide Prevention Coalition. “Alyssa’s Ride would not be possible without wonderful volunteers, supporters, and sponsors,” says Amy.
“Alyssa was most comfortable in T-shirts, basketball shorts and tennis shoes,” says Amy. “No fancy hair-do (always in a ponytail), no nail polish or make-up, just a simple, beautiful girl who lived her life with a big heart and contagious smile who enjoyed giving back to others.”