St. Joseph Girl, Family Raise $1,600 For Mary Free Bed Rehabilitation Hospital


A St. Joseph girl is turning a bit of personal heartbreak last summer into something positive. Seven-year-old Devyn Whitney has a prosthetic right leg and is missing some fingers due to being born with a condition called Fibular Hemimelia, but didn’t feel like she was different from anyone else until last summer at the Krasl Art Fair according to her mom, Stephanie Watkins. Devyn noticed people staring and whispering for the first time and became upset, with her mom taking her down to the Whirlpool Compass Fountain to get away.

“It was going to be a make or break moment, either she was going to pick her head up and walk away or she was going to let this beat her. She chose to pick her head up and walk away proud,” Watkins tells WSJM News. “A couple of days later we were headed up to Mary Free Bed for one of her usual six-month appointments and she said ‘Mommy, I don’t want another kid to feel like I did that day, so I want to raise money to help other kids to have more time to get to know people like me.’”

They decided to start selling rubber bracelets with Devyn’s Defenders on them for $5 each, and they dropped off a check for $1,600 to Mary Free Bed Rehabilitation Hospital in Grand Rapids on Thursday. The money will be used for more picnics and events for children at the hospital’s Center for Limb Differences.

“It went way beyond what we had anticipated for this little project that we had taken upon ourselves,” says Watkins. “Roosevelt Elementary helped raise almost $600 in a day and a half during the joyous polar vortex we all got to experience,” she added with a laugh. Watkins says the Lakeshore High School varsity basketball team also had Devyn’s Defenders bracelets on some of their water bottles this season to show their support.

Stephanie says Devyn is always ready to talk to other kids about her condition, as is Devyn’s twin brother, RJ, who is her best friend and always willing to advocate for his just-a-few-minutes-older sister.

The bracelets are still available at the Devyn’s Defenders Facebook page, and you can follow her journey there as well.