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Olathe gymnast recovering from spinal injury helping boy in the Philippines

OVERLAND PARK, Kan. -- An Olathe teen recovering from her own injuries here in the metro is pledging to help a young boy half a world away.

Anna Sarol hasn’t been able to walk since she fell from the high beams at gymnastics practice and fractured her spine. In the two years since, she’s worked on her recovery, but she’s also focused on helping others get through similar struggles. Sarol said, “I’ve seen people go through some hard times and just going through what I’ve gone through, I know that it’s not easy.”

Anna, her nonprofit Anna’s Angels, and a medical mission group called Grades For Meds are working to help 12-year-old Elmer get through his hard time: a life-threatening tumor. “We’re raising money to help him get surgery by doing this talent contest,” said Sarol.

More than a dozen metro kids put their best moves and songs on display at a talent show, at Mazuma Credit Union off W 135th Street in Overland Park Saturday. The audience voted for their favorites by putting money into buckets marked with the performers’ names. All of the money goes toward funding surgery for Elmer.

Anna’s dad, Ivan Sarol said, “It will break your heart if this continues. If the tumor keeps growing.” Ivan met 12-year-old Elmer in the Philippines earlier this year. His family survives off the equivalent of $6 a week and could never afford to save Elmer’s life without help. Ivan said, “One of these days it might kill him because he won’t be able to breathe.”

Sarol said he was moved by the boy, but also by his daughter’s selflessness in turning her accident into something positive that reaches far beyond Kansas City. “I asked her this morning, and she said, ‘Dad, it’s not about me anymore. It’s about how I [can] put into this world. I wanted to give back.’”

Anna said, “I just felt connected to him because I know what it’s like for people to just stare at you for what you’re going through, and I know that’s not easy.”

Click here to learn more Elmer.

Click here to learn more about Anna’s Angels.

Click here to learn more about Grades for Meds or visit their Facebook Page.