An Inspiration in Our Midst

Feature Article, February 3, 2019

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Rhea Stark

Rhea Stark

An Inspiration in Our Midst

Rhea Isabel Stark- recently named provincial Ambassador for the Children’s Wish Foundation of Newfoundland and Labrador!

To know Rhea is to love her

full of fun
a smile that seldom fades
perseverance that hasn't wavered
a positive, winning attitude no matter what the odds!

Many of you may already know Rhea. Some of you may have seen her in church. On a Sunday morning, she will stroll (or skip) to the altar and plop down on the seat to listen to Rev. Ian. Quiet and a little shy, she always has a smile. When asked a question, she will answer and that answer will often make us laugh. Then she heads off to Sunday School with the other children - again, with a beautiful smile and a little skip in her walk. 

Rhea has been part of our church family since she was a baby.  She was born in Clarenville in July 2010 and moved to Mount Pearl with her family in 2011.  We recently had a chat with her and it went like this:

What do you like about church and Sunday School, Rhea?

"Snacks! Making Stuff!"

What would you like to be when you grow up?

"I want to be a social worker like my Mommy."

What do you like to do when you are home?

"Making a mess; playing on my ipad; riding my bike; playing with my dolls.
I have a classroom at my house and it’s for my dolls. I play school."

What do you like at school?

"Art and gym. I don’t like math"

What other things do you like to do?

"I like climbing snow mountains; swimming; going to the Orange Store with Daddy; rock climbing at Easter seals."

What are you looking forward to when you go to Florida?

"going to the American doll store."

What is an American doll?

"She is a doll that closes her eyes when she lies down and she is taller than other dolls."

Rhea is so full of fun. On Wednesday her school got off early but her brother Henry’s school didn’t, so when Pop was going to pick Henry up Rhea promptly said:

“Pop, I’m going with you and I will hide in the back seat and when Henry gets in the car, I will jump up and scare him. Turn the cam on so I can see his reaction!”


It Takes A Village To Raise A Child

Rhea's parents William Stark and Susan Melendy Stark and her brothers Oliver (15) and Henry (11) adore her! She attends St. Peter’s Primary and is whizzing through grade 3. She loves her Nan and Pop, Dorothy and Sam Melendy, very much too and keeps them busy!

"Rhea’s life has been such a blessing to our family and her strength has inspired us all. We now fully understand the saying, that 'it takes a village to raise a child'.

We have been blessed to receive the love and support of our village every day”.

~ Susan Melendy Stark

Rhea's Story

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When Rhea was born in July 2010, we immediately knew there would be struggles. Her head was misshapen and even 4 days after her birth, she had not yet opened her eyes. At age 3 months, neurosurgeon Dr. Maroun reconstructed her skull in an intense surgery. We are forever grateful. In October 2010, we travelled to Vancouver and Rhea had an ocular lid lift to correct her bilateral ptosis.

Rhea has seen ophthalmologists, cardiologists, ENT specialists, speech therapists, physiotherapists, occupational therapists, neurosurgeons and audiologists, just to name a few, without ever a complaint. Throughout her complex medical history she has maintained her positive attitude and impressed each medical professional with her tolerance.

She had settled into school and was blazing through grade 2 when her greatest challenge to date emerged. Sadly in the winter of 2018, Rhea began to lose her vision. By May 2018, Rhea’s ophthalmologist advised us that she was now legally blind and that she would require supports for mobility and independence. Needless to say we are devastated but, in true Rhea style, she has persevered, adapted and carried on with her winning attitude.

Although she cannot regain the vision she has lost, the deterioration has slowed and we pray that it will stabilize and allow her to carry on with her plans and dreams.

In June 2018 genetic testing results confirmed that her crainiosynostosis, congenital heart defects, small size and unique features were caused by a genetic mutation responsible for Noonan Syndrome. This has answered many questions about her medical history but has also led to other questions that need to be explored.

We are very grateful that Rhea has been approved to receive a wish through the Children’s Wish Foundation. On March 19 our family will be travelling to Florida for a week to stay at Give Kids the World Resort and visit Disney! She is also looking forward to going to Build a Bear, horseback riding, meeting Princess Jasmine and swimming in the big outdoor pool. Rhea’s life has been such a blessing to our family and her strength has inspired us all. We now fully understand the saying, that 'it takes a village to raise a child' and we have been blessed to receive the love and support of our village every day.

Source:  Susan Melendy Stark

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