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Keeneland honors Make-A-Wish recipients at annual celebration

Keeneland
Posted at 6:00 PM, Oct 13, 2022
and last updated 2022-10-13 18:24:06-04

LEXINGTON, Ky. (LEX 18) — Thursday’s continuation of Keeneland’s fall season brought a particularly special group of VIPs to the track. 10 chronically or critically ill kids took center stage for Keeneland’s 15th annual Make-A-Wish day.

Kids and their families took turns handing out the trophy after each race, they met jockeys, and received the VIP treatment as racegoers.

For 17-year-old Karys Durham, the day served as a reminder of the challenges she’s faced with her family by her side.

“It’s a celebration and also a time for my family to come together because my mom was constantly with me in the hospital and my dad was with my brother,” said Durham.

Durham’s story began years ago with consistent stomach problems.

“I missed out on dances, going to school — my GPA was awful when I graduated because I had missed so much school,” explained Durham.

Doctors doubted her symptoms for months, but an eventual diagnosis found that Durham had chronic pancreatitis. Finally receiving an answer, she was able to receive a life-changing procedure in 2020.

“I had my pancreas, spleen, part of my small intestines, then my gallbladder and appendix were already gone, but all of that is now removed.”

Today, she’s happy and healthy and making up for lost time by making a wish.

“I didn't really think I deserved one, but they said Make-A-Wish is for kids with illnesses, and their illnesses took away part of their life,” said Durham.

She wants to go on a tropical vacation, but that’s merely part one of what’s becoming a lifelong wish.

“I'm hoping to keep helping other kids get through it, that's my main goal,” said Durham. “If I had to go through it, I at least want to make something good out of it, so I'm trying to help other kids going through the same situation because it's a lot more common than people realize.”

As an advocate, she reminds others that no one knows their body like they do. She calls people to speak up when something feels wrong.

With a wish and her health, Durham is ready to hit the starting gate and inspire those younger than her to finish the race.