Local teen’s drawing wins cover spot in national calendar contest

Skyler Moats, right, a ninth-grader at Elkins High School, is the winner of a national art contest designed to raise awareness of kidney disease. She is shown here with one of her best friends, Alicia Kelley.

ELKINS — A local teen is the winner of a national art contest for pediatric kidney patients, thanks to a tremendous amount of online support.

Skyler Moats, 14, of Elkins, initially was one of 13 finalists whose artwork was selected to appear in the American Kidney Fund’s 2018 calendar. Her piece of art, entitled “A Fighting Chance,” now will be featured on the cover, after she earned the most online votes during a three-week contest on the website www.kidneyfund.org.

Nearly 4,000 people voted, and Moats’ artwork came out on top with almost 800 votes. She said her drawing was designed to be a symbol of strength and inspiration for other people, particularly anyone who is battling kidney disease.

“I want to thank everybody that voted for me, and everybody who supported me through this,” Moats said during an interview at Elkins High School this week, where she attends ninth grade. She pointed out many of her friends and fellow students have been supportive, including Alicia Kelley, Allyson Haynes and Lilee Schoonover, as well as teachers and EHS Principal Russ Collett.

As the contest winner, Moats will receive a free trip to Washington, D.C., to be recognized Oct. 4 during the American Kidney Fund’s annual fall gala, called The Hope Affair.

Moats was diagnosed with kidney disease when she was in fifth grade. She first experienced back pain, and she was sent to a specialist after having blood drawn at a local clinic.

She is now in stage 4 kidney failure, and she is a patient of Dr. Oulimata Grossman, a Morgantown physician who specializes in pediatric nephrology.

Moats also is working with specialists at the Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh of the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, and she had a series of pre-transplant evaluation appointments earlier this month.

Her doctors ultimately hope she will be able to receive a kidney transplant from a live donor.

“I would give her mine in a second,” said her grandmother, Linda Bozic, “but there’s just no way because I had ovarian cancer and chemo, and I’m too old.”

Bozic said she hopes this contest not only will create increased awareness about kidney disease, but also encourage people to sign up to become potential organ donors.

According to information from the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center’s website, more than 96,000 Americans are on the waitlist for a kidney transplant. On average, one person is added to the waiting list for an organ transplant every 10 minutes.

Living donors must be between the ages of 18 and 69 and in general good health. Information on becoming a donor can be found online by visiting www.upmc.com and searching “living donor.” Interested potential donors also can fill out a questionnaire online at https://livingdonorreg.upmc.com and indicate that they would want Moats to be the recipient if they are a suitable match.

The American Kidney Fund’s Calendar Kids Art Program provides an opportunity for pediatric kidney patients to express themselves through artwork and to receive national recognition while increasing awareness of kidney disease throughout the United States. The popular annual contest is now in its 22nd year.

The AKF 2018 calendar featuring Moats’ winning artwork on the cover will be published in October and available for purchase on AKF’s website, kidneyfund.org.

“The drawings from children and teens living with kidney disease that appear in our annual calendar are filled with hope, despite the serious health challenges these young artists face,” said LaVarne A. Burton, president and CEO of the American Kidney Fund, in a news release. “Skyler’s positive outlook is very inspiring and we congratulate her on being selected as our 2018 cover artist.”

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