Mississippi’s 2019 Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals Champion is quite accustomed to titles.
by Annie Oeth/UMMC Public Affairs
Aubrey Armstrong, 14, of Oxford, announced last week as the spokesperson for Mississippi’s only hospital dedicated to pediatrics, Batson Children’s Hospital at the University of Mississippi Medical Center, is also the reigning Mississippi Miss Amazing Junior Teen.
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.
“I want to thank Batson Children’s Hospital for taking good care of me,” said Aubrey during a standing-room-only Champion celebration at The Pavilion Club on the University of Mississippi’s Oxford campus Thursday. “I love the doctors and nurses there.”
The event included the Ole Miss spirit squad, cheerleaders, Tony the Landshark and Oxford Mayor Robyn Tannehill, among others.
Each year, Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals, a nonprofit organization that raises funds for children’s hospitals in the U.S. and Canada, identifies children with remarkable medical stories as Champions to represent the millions of children treated at CMNH hospitals every year.
Included in that number are about 180,000 children treated through Children’s of Mississippi, the umbrella organization that includes all pediatric care provided across the state by UMMC, including at Batson Children’s Hospital.
Miss Amazing seeks to provide opportunities for girls and women with disabilities to build confidence and self-esteem.
When Holly and Brad Armstrong were expecting their second child, Aubrey, they didn’t know she would be born with any special needs.
“She was born and the doctor came in and said, ‘We think Aubrey has characteristics of Down syndrome,” said Holly, who is a nurse practitioner. “My first question was, ‘How is her heart?’ That was my first concern. They said, ‘She doesn’t even have a heart murmur. She’s great.’ Then I thought, ‘OK, we can do this.’ I knew if, medically, she was OK, we could handle everything else.”
Early intervention through Children’s of Mississippi physicians has made a world of difference, said Brad. “Aubrey is off the charts for highly functioning as a child with Down syndrome, and that is because of Batson Children’s Hospital and the care she 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.
Aubrey, who loves dancing, music, Ole Miss and spending time with her sisters, Ann-Michael, 16, and Ava, 6, is more than OK these days. Said Holly: “She’s amazing.”
“My sons think she’s famous,” said Tobi Breland, Aubrey’s aunt and a nurse practitioner at the Children’s Cancer Center housed in Batson, said of her sons, Blair and Grant. “And she is. Around Oxford, everyone knows Aubrey.”
New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning first met Aubrey in 2008 during a visit to Batson Children’s Hospital. Though Manning couldn’t attend in person, a video message from him to Aubrey was played at the Champion announcement event.
“You know, I’m pretty good at recognizing when someone has what it takes to be a champion,” he said, “and when we met 10 years ago, I knew you had what it takes. I was not surprised to hear that you are this year’s Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals Champion for Children’s of Mississippi. You are going to make a great champion.”
One of Aubrey’s physicians is Dr. Mark Reed, chief of the Division of Pediatric Otolaryngology at UMMC. He also delivered a message for one of his favorite patients via a video played at the event.
“You are not only Miss Amazing,” said Reed, “but you are Miss Incredible, Miss Fabulous, Miss Marvelous and Miss Miraculous.”
Tannehill got to know Aubrey during a Buddy Walk in My Shoes Initiative, following her to Oxford Middle School to learn how to make change at the school store and inviting her into her office at City Hall.
“That girl is a Champion,” said Tannehill. “As a Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals Champion, she will do what she does best: spread joy wherever she goes. Aubrey inspires me to find joy in the smallest things and to see opportunities instead of obstacles. She’s a rock star.”
Andrew Russell, a Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals specialist in UMMC’s Office of Development, said Aubrey has already been living the Champion lifestyle, raising funds for Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals by selling lemonade on Oxford’s downtown Square, participating in the events of 21 United, a Down syndrome support group, and wearing the state Miss Amazing crown twice.
“Aubrey is truly amazing,” Russell said. “She is a huge ball of positive energy who doesn’t mind the spotlight. With her smarts and outgoing personality, she can just about talk to anyone and be their friend instantly. She is going to make a great Champion for all kids treated at Children’s of Mississippi.”