Leah Stoltz: 2009 Honoree
Leah Stoltz was in 6th grade when she was told by her doctor that she was developing a serious lateral curve in her spine, a condition called scoliosis (which affects about 1 in 40 young people, mostly girls). She was instructed to wear a full torso, hard plastic brace for 22 hours a day in hopes of correcting the curve. While rarely life-threatening, scoliosis cruelly becomes evident in early adolescence, a time when girls feel most self-conscious about their changing bodies. Feeling alone and deeply frustrated by her body's betrayal, she told her mom she wanted to start her own support group and at 13 founded Curvy Girls of Long Island. Despite enduring the brace for two and a half years, she required major spine surgery causing her to forgo her favorite activities for one year. Leah has become a spokesperson for the National Scoliosis Foundationand Curvy Girls have been instrumental in the success of fundraising by the local chapter of the Scoliosis Association. Through Curvy Girls, Leah has been able to support and educate other young girls and their parents about living with scoliosis and to instill in them a positive self-image and esteem despite the effects of the condition. It is Leah's hope to help more girls start Curvy Girls groups across the country so that "other girls don't have to feel alone."