As Olathe gymnast recovers from spinal cord injury, family and friends provide support

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OLATHE, Kan. -- Friends and family of an injured Olathe Northwest High School student hosted a fundraiser on Wednesday to help raise money for the girl's medical expenses.

Fourteen-year-old Anna Sarol injured her spinal cord during gymnastics practice at Olathe East in August. Since then, she had surgery at Children's Mercy Hospital and has spent weeks in the hospital. The teen and her father are now at a rehabilitation center in Chicago where Anna is continuing therapy.

Back at home, two of her older sisters are sharing stories about Anna's strength and bravery through the injury.

"She is far better than any of us had been or could be. It blows my mind how amazing of a gymnast she is," Kat Collett said.

Collett said she and their other sister, Elizabeth Summers, also did gymnastics, but Anna is the one who shines. Kat said Anna keeps a large whiteboard in her bedroom, with a list of daily exercises and stretches she did on her own time, to stay strong and ahead of the game.

"It literally feels like her life is being ripped away from her because gymnastics is her life. That's the hardest part, knowing that to us it was a hobby, but to her it's life. It's her dreams," Collett said.

Those dreams are on hold for now while Anna continues therapy. The family is hoping for healing and praying for good news from doctors.

"They really don't know. Honestly, it's all up to how her body is going to handle everything. I was there was one day and she was sitting on the bed and she said, 'Come on legs, walk!' It just killed me at that moment," Summers said.

Anna hasn't had feeling in her legs since the injury. Her sisters said beyond Anna's physical strength, the girl possesses an inner resilience, built into her as the youngest of five children.

"She's the baby out of all of us, so she's kind of had to build herself up to be strong," Summers said.

"We changed her diaper, dressed her for Halloween, did her hair, taught her how to put on makeup. So in a sense, she's almost like a little child to each of us," Collett said.

The older sisters also say that Anna is selfless, even in the midst of losing the ability to do what she loves most.

"It seems like it's all about Anna, but all Anna wants to do is make it about anyone else who needs help too," Collett said.

Summers told FOX 4 that on one of Anna's first outings at the therapy center in Chicago, the only thing she wanted to do was feed homeless people. She used her time outside of the center to buy about 30 hamburgers and pass them out to needy strangers, and she wanted no recognition in return.

"She's one of the most strong-willed, amazing girls that will do anything for anyone at any given moment," Summers said.

Her friends continue to show support through homemade videos and posts to Anna's Facebook page. Wednesday's fundraiser at Chick-Fil-A continues until the restaurant closes at 10 p.m. The owner of the restaurant is donating 100 percent of Wednesday's proceeds to Anna's family.

The Filipino Association of Greater Kansas City is also hosting a breakfast from 9 to 11 a.m., Saturday, October 10 at the organization's cultural center: 9810 West 79th Street, Overland Park KS 66204. For more information, contact Rizvend Pecana at rpecana@filipino-association.org.

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