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Aubrey Armstrong can add one more title to her resume: 2020 Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals National Champion.

The state’s 2019 Champion, the 15-year-old from Oxford is the first Children’s of Mississippi patient to represent patients of Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals at the national level. A part of the University of Mississippi Medical Center, Children’s of Mississippi includes the state’s only children’s hospital as well as general and specialty clinics around the state.

“We are so excited and humbled,” said Aubrey’s mom, Holly Armstrong. “After we got the news, we told her when she got home from school. She said, ‘Oh, my goodness! Really?!’”

In October, the Armstrongs went to Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals headquarters in Salt Lake City for photos, media interviews and meeting the other 2020 national champions and their families. “The CMNH staff members were amazing, and they have been since day one,” Holly said.

Every minute, 62 children enter a Children’s Miracle Network Hospital for treatment. Included in that number are about 180,000 children treated through Children’s of Mississippi, the umbrella organization that includes all kids’ and teens’ care provided across the state by UMMC.

Whether they suffer from common childhood afflictions like asthma or broken bones, or fight bigger challenges like birth defects or cancer, patients such as Aubrey, who has Down Syndrome, receive the treatment they need to reach their full potential.

“I want to thank Children’s of Mississippi for an amazing year,” Aubrey said, “and I am so excited to help Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals as a national Champion!”

Each year, Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals chooses 10 of America’s state Champions to be advocates for patients on the national level, said Jason Myers, senior director of content development for Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals.

“We look at each of these 170 Champions and their stories and, from them, choose 10 each year based on their personalities, diversity of age, race, ethnicity, gender, condition and geography, and their ability to share their stories and to be advocates for patients and for philanthropy,” Myers said.

Known for her outgoing personality, Aubrey will be “a dynamic Champion,” Myers said. “She radiates joy.”

The 10 national Champions will represent Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals this spring during Children’s Hospitals Week April 6-12, 2020. The group will also attend an annual Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals conference in Orlando, where they will share their stories with attendees, including corporate sponsors.

They’ll also be the faces of Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals national fundraising efforts, which can range from being featured on magazine covers and in social media posts to being pictured on Cheerios cereal boxes.

“They’ll also travel to corporate events around the country to tell their stories and to share why it is important to give to local children’s hospitals,” Myers said.

While serving as Mississippi’s Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals Champion, Aubrey was the 2019 Mississippi Miss Amazing Junior Teen. Miss Amazing seeks to provide opportunities for girls and women with disabilities to build confidence and self-esteem.

During 2019, Aubrey has supported Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals and Children’s of Mississippi, and those organizations have also supported her, Holly said.

“She has had an amazing year,” she said. “Aubrey has been a Pilot for the Day at Columbus Air Force Base, where she was fitted with a flight suit and even had her name on a plane. She caddied for Cameron Champ at the Sanderson Farm Championship and shot a video for the PGA. She went to Jackson with Rep. Jay Hughes on Feb. 5, where she was recognized by state Legislature, and that day was named Aubrey Armstrong Day.

“She participated in the Mississippi Miracles Radiothon and the topping out of the Children’s of Mississippi expansion. She threw out the first pitch at an Ole Miss baseball game and was recognized on stage at the Miss Mississippi Pageant, all while having a great freshman year at Oxford High. She was even elected to the homecoming court. We have had a busy year, but we’re looking forward to what’s to come.”

Children’s of Mississippi physicians have made a world of difference for Aubrey, said her father, Brad. “Aubrey is off the charts for highly functioning as a child with Down syndrome, and that is because of Children’s of Mississippi and the care she has received.”

Physical therapy, occupational therapy and speech therapy have been part of Aubrey’s care, and she continues to see specialists in otolaryngology, endocrinology and ophthalmology through Children’s of Mississippi.

“I never thought when Aubrey was small and growing up going to the children’s hospital that she would be able to use her personality and sass to return the favor,” Holly said. “We have been able to reconnect with so many of her physicians, nurses, therapists and friends at the hospital this year, and it has been wonderful. We have been very blessed with all she has gotten to do, and we feel so honored.”

Andrew Russell, a Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals specialist in UMMC’s Office of Development, said Aubrey lives the Champion lifestyle, raising funds for Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals by selling lemonade on Oxford’s downtown Square and participating in the events of 21 United, a Down syndrome support group.

“Aubrey is truly amazing,” Russell said. “She is a huge ball of positive energy who doesn’t mind the spotlight. She has been a great Champion for Mississippi, and she will be a great national Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals Champion.”

Information from UMC and written by Annie Oeth

Among Aubrey’s previous titles: 2017 Mississippi Miss Amazing Preteen, Oxford Mayor for the Day and Children’s of Mississippi Kid Captain for Ole Miss’ 2018 football game against Auburn.

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