300 turn out for 'Zumba for Savanah' event
By Shelley Smithssmith@salisburypost.com
There’s a lot of love in Rowan County for 16-year-old Savanah Hinson.
More than 300 people came out to support Savanah during a Zumbathon “Zumba for Savanah” fundraiser Saturday night at the South Rowan YMCA. The fundraiser was Savanah’s cousin’s idea.
“She’s done a lot in the past to help other people, so I thought it’d be nice to do something for her,” said 10-year-old Samantha Hinson.
Executing the fundraiser were Jill Rary and Sabrina Walter, Zumba instructors, colleagues at Carolinas Medical Center and complete strangers to Savanah and her family.
“We heard so many wonderful things about Savanah’s spirit and attitude, and heard they were needing help,” said Rary.
“Savanah has taught us that we can do the impossible,” said Walter.
Rary and Walter have been planning the fundraiser for the past six weeks.
“It has been an amazing journey that we’ve had in the past few months,” said Walter. “People are just giving and giving.”
When Savanah was seven months old, she was diagnosed with cancer. Doctors found tumors wrapped around her spinal cord, and the surgery and chemo treatments began.
“I relapsed twice,” said Savanah. “But I got rid of it when I was three, and haven’t had it since.”
The cancer was gone but a curve in Savanah’s spine had a forward curve, and needed to be fixed with surgery to prevent later internal problems.
“I walked until I was 13,” said Savanah.
Savanah had two surgeries for her curved spine in September 2007. She lost nerve signals in her legs during the first.
“They don’t know what happened,” said Savanah’s mother, Emily Hinson.
“When they stopped the first surgery, she could move her left foot and right toes,” said Savanah’s father, Greg Hinson. “Within hours after the first surgery, everything went away. They still finished what they started.”
Savanah said she remembers family members and friends crying in her hospital room, but didn’t realize why.
“I didn’t know I couldn’t move them,” said Savanah. “The day after surgery, when I had to get X-rays, I was freaking out and frustrated.”
A few months after her surgeries, Savanah went to her first football game as a freshman at Carson High School.
“At first it was hard,” she said. “I didn’t want to go out. I didn’t want people looking at me. But everyone was happy to see me.”
Although Savanah can’t move her legs, the sky is the limit.
“My dream is to be in the paralympics for cycling,” she said. Savanah doesn’t have the right bicycle yet, but hopes to be able to get one soon so she can start training.
Savanah’s second dream and passion is photography.
“I want to make photography my job and have my own studio,” she said. Her favorite photos are candids of her friends.
Her ultimate dream is to walk again.
As quoted in a Facebook group supporting Savanah, “Signs for Savanah,” Savanah says, “The doctors told me that I’d never walk again, but doctors are doctors and God is God.”
Savanah’s father and grandfather have built a separate building behind their home for rehabilitation. She has two pieces of equipment, but needs a lot more.
Savanah has been to several different rehabilitation facilities in North Carolina and even in Baltimore, Md., but insurance does not cover the costs.
“Insurance doesn’t cover rehab,” said Greg Hinson. “Because doctors said she’d never walk again, it can’t be covered.”
Rehabilitation therapy for Savanah costs around $1,200 a month.
Other problems for Savanah are doing the simple things, like hanging out with her family in her parents’ bedroom.
“I can only go into the doorway,” said Savanah. “I haven’t been in my parent’s bedroom for years.”
The Hinsons have changed the doorways to allow Savanah enough room to get through, but she still has problems reaching cabinets, shelves, counters and more.
Another problem is the commute to get to her new rehabilitation building.
“She has to go out the back door and around the house to get there,” said Emily Hinson. “It’d be a lot easier for her if it was in the house.”
Friends noticed these problems and created a campaign to attempt to bring ABC’s Extreme Home Makeover to the Hinson household, which is only a little more than 1,000 square feet for Savanah, her mother and father and her sisters, Chelsea, 18, and Makenna, 2.
“She can get through our house,” said Emily Hinson. “Is it easy? No. But she can get through.”
The Facebook group, Sign for Savanah, is part of the makeover effort, and now has more than 5,000 members. The Extreme Home Makeover group is also flooded with comments to support the Hinson family.
Savanah’s older sister, Chelsea, said Savanah’s positive attitude keeps her positive.
“She is somebody you can’t take for granted,” said Chelsea. “Before the surgery, we could do more things together. There’s a lot of things we can’t do now.
“If I could take her place I would in a heartbeat,” Chelsea said as she tried to hold back tears.
“This fundraiser has just been amazing,” said Emily Hinson. “Them coming to me and saying ‘We can do this,’ there are no words.
“They just told us to sit back and enjoy it. We’ve been doing it all on our own for a long time.”
The fundraiser included hot air balloon rides for $5 a person, courtesy of the Lake Norman Balloon Company. Pilot, Ed Ristaino, works with Rary and Walter at CMC.
“When you think about Savanah’s story, to be that young and have that load dropped on her, it’s the least I can do,” said Ristaino, who donated his time and fuel. All proceeds from the balloon rides went straight to the Hinson family.
T-shirts with “Zumba for Savanah” were for sale, vendors came out, giving back to the Hinsons, and Cornerstone Baptist Church of Kannapolis provided hot dogs and other refreshments for sale with all proceeds going to the Hinsons.
With each Zumba participant paying $10 for the night, and more than 300 participating, the Hinsons will receive, at the least, $3,000.
“We can’t say thank you enough,” said Emily Hinson.
As for Savanah, she just loved hanging out with her friends and family.
“A little girl came up to me and said she wanted to take a picture with me,” said Savanah. “I was just shocked. It was neat.”
An account is set up for Savanah through F&M Bank in China Grove, the Savanah Hinson Fund. You can also join Signs for Savanah and ABC’s Extreme Home Makeover page to push for help for the Hinsons.
The Hinsons live in China Grove.