Ambassador Highlight: Meet Willa

Published: March 29th, 2018

Category: CMN Ambassador Stories, For the Kids, Patient Stories

CMN Ambassador Willa AmbrosiusIf you have a chance to talk to 10-year-old Willa Ambrosius, she will tell you a lot about herself.

One, she wants to be a veterinarian and save all animals. Two, her favorite activities are singing in the school chorus, playing with her pets and playing ‘Let’s Dance’ on the Nintendo Wii. Three, she was diagnosed with Polyarticular Juvenile Idiopathic Arthritis when she was 18 months old, and arthritis is not just an “old people” disease.

When Willa had her first major flare-up, she had a hard time walking or playing. Her doctor at Nemours Children’s Specialty Care in Jacksonville referred her to Melissa Elder, M.D., Ph.D., a pediatric rheumatologist at UF Health Shands Children’s Hospital.

“My reaction to learning Willa’s diagnosis was, ‘Kids get arthritis? I better do some research!’” recalls Willa mother, Jessica.

For Willa and her family, they have placed their complete trust in UF Health Shands Children’s Hospital.

“The level of care is exceptional,” Jessica said. “And the fact that there is state-of-the-art technology and plenty of activities in a fun environment truly help ease the anxiety of receiving an infusion.”

Willa’s diagnosis has influenced her day-to-day life by empowering her to be her own advocate.

“She has really come out of her shell. She will tell people about arthritis and how it affects her and other kids,” Jessica said.

More than eight years after her diagnosis, Willa is experiencing life like many children her age thanks to the treatment and care teams at UF Health. She receives infusions and undergoes physical therapy, while also taking injections at home.

She has attended Camp Boggy Creek, a camp where children with serious illnesses and their families experience the spirit and friendships that happen at camp. Her favorite memories are making friends at camp with kids who have a diagnosis just like her.


Interested in learning more about our CMN Ambassador Program? Visit giving.UFHealth.org/ambassadors.


Sign up to receive stories like these in your inbox. Subscribe to “For the Kids” below!


The latest from For the Kids

Now through Sept. 29: Love’s Travel Stops campaign for CMN Hospitals

Now through Sept. 29: Love’s Travel Stops campaign for CMN Hospitals

Sep 10th, 2019

Love’s Travel Stops are not just family owned food and fuel stops. Their employees hold fundraising campaigns year-round – including this year’s 20th annual fundraising campaign for Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals.

Where does my CMN gift go? | September 2019

Sep 10th, 2019

The Pediatric C-MAC Cart, monitor, two pediatric flexible intubation scopes and blades can be used for the pediatric cath lab and for procedures done by operating room staff on the unit as needed, making it an important addition to our equipment inventory.

Ambassador Highlight: Meet Bailey

Ambassador Highlight: Meet Bailey

Sep 10th, 2019

When Bailey was born, her parents were stunned by the diagnosis, having never heard of Turner Syndrome before, and could only find scant information on the internet. The family was referred to UF Health Shands Children’s Hospital because of the breadth of care available from our Turner Syndrome specialists.