By Megan Myers
About six years ago, doctors gave Troy Buchanan High School graduate Katie Ladlie an impossible decision to make. After years of suffering from excruciating pain in her left leg due to a vascular problem, the cartilage in her left knee was almost completely deteriorated. Ladlie had two options: undergo a procedure that would permanently straighten her leg and rule out an active lifestyle, or have the leg amputated above the knee.
At just 12 years old, she chose the latter. It was the beginning of a new life for Ladlie, as her younger sister Kelsey recalls — one that took some adjustment in the beginning.
“At times it was hard to watch her struggle,” Kelsey said of those first few months after the surgery.
Then the Ladlie family learned about the Disabled Athlete Sports Association. DASA director Kelly Behlmann got Katie to try out a racing chair, and the rest is history.
“We went on a three-mile biking trip,” Kelsey Kelsey said. “We finally did something active together. I saw her change and become super confident.”
As a high school student, Katie tried out a variety of athletic events through the organization. Ladlie’s story became a positive inspiration for many as she maintained an active, healthy lifestyle. She was even chosen as the national patient ambassador for Shriner’s Hospital and throwing the ceremonial first pitch at a St. Louis Cardinals game.
Now a college student studying psychology at Lindernwood University, Katie plays on the DASA Blues sled hockey team, and is hoping to start a women’s Olympic sled hockey team soon.
“DASA showed her how to use her new life,” Kelsey said. “It gave her an outlet.”
Seeing the impact that DASA had on her sister’s life, Kelsey decided to give back to the organization that had given her family so much.
She volunteers as a counselor at the organization’s annual summer camp, where she said it is easy to see the positive changes that participating in DASA sports brings to young people’s lives.
“The kids take on a whole new confidence,” she said. “By the end of camp, they believe in their own strengths and abilities.”
She has also had plenty of support from the local community in her efforts.
An active FFA member, Kelsey has donated the proceeds from the sale of her hog to DASA for the last three years.
Last year, a large group of buyers paid $9 a pound for her hog, allowing Kelsey to donate approximately $800.
This year, Kelsey had about 17 buyers from all across Lincoln County came together to purchase her hog for $40 per pound. She expects to be able to donate a grand total of around $10,000.
“This year was super exciting,” the Troy Buchanan senior said.
Katie also donated proceeds from the sale of her lamb this year, splitting the profit between Shriner’s Hospital and DASA.
“We’ve been so blessed with both of those organizations,” Kelsey said. “They’ve done so much for our family.”