Hailey Rinaldi, a competitive dancer, and Central New York native, has faced many obstacles in her life. In third grade, Hailey was diagnosed with scoliosis. She became a patient of Upstate Orthopedics under the joint care of Dr. Stephen Albanese (pediatric orthopedic surgeon) and Dr. William Lavelle (spine surgeon). Hailey’s initial treatment included wearing a back brace starting at the age of 9. Hailey recalls the many challenges and emotions she felt as a child and teenager having to wear a back brace. After wearing a brace for many years, Hailey elected to undergo spinal fusion surgery in 2021. Last month, Hailey celebrated the one-year anniversary of her spinal fusion surgery. In honor of this and all the support that she received, Hailey decided she wanted to give back and help others through their scoliosis journey. Hailey began to share her story and gave advice to other scoliosis patients through social media. This is when she found, Lauren Higginson, founder of Higgy Bears. Higgy Bears is a foundation that allows scoliosis patients to have a bear with a brace, just like them! Many patients feel alone and scared, but with a Higgy Bear it makes the experience more manageable, or as the founder, Lauren states, “bear-able”.
Hailey, now a student at St. John Fisher College, raised money to purchase Higgy Bears for scoliosis patients as a way to help children cope with having to wear a back brace. Through her fundraising efforts, Hailey was able to purchase 43 Higgy Bears to donate to Upstate Golisano Children’s Hospital and to Upstate Orthopedics pediatric scoliosis patients. Congratulations to Hailey for being a scoliosis warrior and showing others that they are not alone!