ELIZABETHTOWN — What a difference five years can make.
In 2009, Kayla Nunnery, now 15 and a freshman at West Bladen High, was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma and began the long road of treatment with her sights set on a hopeful remission.
That hope became a reality this year.
“It’s been an amazing time,” said Joann B. Nunnery, Kayla’s grandmother. “She’s a cheerleader, want to play tennis next year for the school, she has her learner’s permit and loves to ride her horse Sierra. She also dances through Dance Infinity in Bladenboro.
“It’s so nice to have only the usual teenager things to think about,” she added.
On Saturday, Kayla participated in the first-ever Saddle Up for St. Jude at Bladen Lakes State Forest, where she led more than 50 riders who helped to raise $1,529 — 100 percent of which will benefit St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis, Tenn. And more donations continues to come in.
“We hope to do this every year,” Joann Nunnery said. “We had more than 70 participants, and everyone at the park was so helpful and nice.
“And even though Kayla received her treatment through Duke, the research being done at St. Jude’s is shared across the country, so she is considered a St. Jude’s kid,” Nunnery added.
Nunnery said she has been thankful for all of those who have contributed to the fundraiser and wanted to help along the way with Kayla’s recovery.
“We had donations from as far away as Benson, Wilmington and even South Carolina,” she said.
Some of the local contributors included Smellie Bloomers, Big Blue Store, Tractor Supply, Bladen Hardware and the Feed & Seed in Elizabethtown.
Nunnery said everything for Kayla is now pointing toward a positive future as a normal teenager and beyond.
“Kayla is amazing,” she said. “She’s just full speed ahead. She’s a typical, happy teenager. That sounds like a little thing so say, but it’s such a blessed thing for us to call her that.”
Kayla’s family includes parents Clint Nunnery of Council and Kristy Hester of Bladenboro; brother Sean Nunnery, an eighth-grader at Bladenboro Middle School; grandparents Joann and Bobby Nunnery of Council; grandparents Ike and Carolyn Hester of Bladenboro; and great-grandmother Loraine Moser in Bladenboro.