Circle Of Hope: Halee Newby
By Lisa Tillman
From the Super Bowl to the Academy Awards, February 2012 featured plenty of must-see TV, but 15-year-old Halee Newby hoped that people tuned in for more than just the Oscars® and football. The Wisconsin high school sophomore, who has been living with lupus since she was 12, made her TV debut that night on ABC Television’s Everyday Health Heroes.
“Everyday Health selected Halee Newby to profile because she’s an extraordinary young person who demonstrates that no matter what ails you, and in her case it’s lupus, you can push your boundaries to do remarkable things,” says Paul Slavin, SVP/GM, Global News and Everyday Health Studios, Everyday Health.
The Newbys joined the Lupus Foundation of America’s Wisconsin chapter in 2008, shortly after Halee was diagnosed, and signed up for the chapter’s annual Strides for Lupus Walk. The event, held near Milwaukee, was about an hour from their home.
“Halee had a ton of friends come and walk with us to support her,” recalls Halee’s mom, Kim Newby. “There were hundreds of people there, and that helped her feel a little better about having lupus—that she wasn’t the only one. It really created a sense of community.”
Two years later Halee and her family harnessed that sense of community and started another fundraiser, this time in their own backyard. “We set up a volleyball court, and tag football,” Halee recalls. “It was this huge barbeque party.” Local restaurants provided hotdogs and hamburgers, and the Newbys asked attendees to donate $20 or $25. More than 150 friends and neighbors showed up. The Newbys were thrilled.
The family raised over $10,000 that first year. The next year, the Newbys’ “FUNdraiser” attracted 300 attendees. “Everyone’s just been really cool about it,” Halee says.
The following winter, Halee had several flares with significant joint pain, and ongoing cold symptoms. She missed a lot of school, and was eventually diagnosed with a damaged heart valve.
While Kim was taking care of Halee, one of her friends asked her about the backyard party.
“I said we just have so much going on right now, I just don’t know what I’ll be able to do, and she said, ‘Let me run with it.’”
Kim’s friend persuaded Libby Montana Bar and Grill, a local restaurant, to donate the use of their indoor volleyball dome for the fundraiser. More donations followed: dunk tanks, carnival games, thousands of dollars worth of silent auction items. Kim estimated more than 400 people showed up. “At the end of this fundraiser we’d raised $17,700 dollars,” she says. A second event in the Fall of 2011 brought in another $3500.
All told, Halee and her family have raised over $70,000 for lupus-related causes since Halee was diagnosed, and while she’s happy with all the money they’ve been able to contribute, Halee is even more proud of what they’ve done to help raise awareness.
“Its important because there are a lot of people who are affected by lupus, but unless you knew them personally you wouldn’t be able to tell,” Halee explains. “Lupus really is an underground disease, and by that I mean that it's even more ominous because not a lot of people know what it is, or how to deal with it. What really meant the most to me was the opportunity to enlighten America about lupus.”
Everyday Health Heroes airs on ABC-TV Saturday and Sunday mornings. Check your local listings or EverydayHealth.com/TV for exact dates and times.