Accepting No Obstacles
young dancer battles ailments with awards
For high school students in the Chippewa Valley, summer vacation brings rest, relaxation, and in many cases, the opportunity to track down some cash by landing a part time job.
For Katie Rhoten, her summer was spent attending one of the world’s premier summer arts programs for kids in grades 3 through 12.
Needless to say, she doesn’t mind passing on the rest and relaxation part. Rhoten is a few short days away from starting her sophomore year at Eau Claire Memorial High School. When I connected with Katie this summer she was in between summer dance programs. But that is only the start to her uniqueness and unwillingness to let personal obstacles prevent her from achieving greatness.
You see, Katie, at the age of 9, was diagnosed with Type I diabetes. Odds quickly stacking against her, at the age of 13, she was diagnosed with Lyme disease, tore her meniscus in a knee, and to top it all off, was identified with juvenile rheumatoid arthritis.
Now comes the best part: She practices 20 hours a week as one of the best dancers (in modern dance and ballet) in the area. She is so talented, in fact, that Katie was accepted into the Interlochen Arts Camp in Michigan. Interlochen Arts Camp recruits students and staff from all 50 states along with 40 countries. The 2,500 artists that are accepted into the program learn from world-class teachers and create a multitude of performances during their three-week experience.
When I spoke with Katie, she cycled our conversation around great teachers both here in Eau Claire (En Avant and Infinity Dance Center) and in Michigan. She also mentioned that those who work with her refuse to recognize her as someone with a limited ceiling, rather a limitless one as she continues to use her ailments as motivators.
“I like to use dance to portray my emotions,” said Katie during our brief phone interviews as she was unpacking from Interlochen and preparing for her next two-week dance camp.
But Interlochen, a world-class performing arts camp, doesn’t come cheap. So Rhoten established a GoFundMe account and created water-color art pieces that have fetched hundreds of dollars at local charity events.
So what does a high school student do when she is not maintaining great grades, dancing competitively, practicing 20 plus hours a week, and winning prestigious awards? She oversees a charity that provides emotional support to children receiving medical care.
Katie’s charity, Katharine’s Wish, has provided stuffed animals to kids frightened by anything from needle sticks to extended stays in hospitals. Since the beginning, she has been able to donate $15,000 worth of get-well gear for kids of all ages that have reached 16 states.
Katie – who continues to remain humble, appreciative, and driven – plans to continue to dance in college and possibly pursue some sort of post-secondary degree in dance once she commits to a college.
Harry Connick Jr., Norah Jones, Josh Groban, Branford Marsalis, OK Go, and Katharine Rhoten … all names of gifted artists who have attended Interlochen. Pretty good company!
To learn more about Katie’s charity work, go to www.facebook.com/KatharinesWish.