With a smile that will light up a room, Lauren Korth is one enthusiastic cheerleader
LINDSAY — Cheerleading, school dances and classes. That’s what many think of when they think of their high school experience.
Lauren Korth, a senior at Lindsay Holy Family, is no different. But what makes the daughter of Dan and Sarah Korth out of the ordinary is that she has Williams syndrome.
It’s a developmental disorder that can affect many parts of the body, including the heart. It is estimated that about 30,000 people in the United States have Williams syndrome.
But the disorder hasn’t stopped Lauren from being an avid cheerleader for the Humphrey-Lindsay Holy Family (HLHF) Bulldogs. She has been part of the co-op cheer team for all four years of high school.
“(Cheer) has taught me to be a better person,” Lauren said.
This fall marked a special occasion because, for the first time in her high school years, Lauren was able to cheer at a state tournament in Lincoln when the HLHF volleyball team made it to state.
Lauren said her favorite sport is football, and she has a bunch of teams that she loves to cheer for, including the Denver Broncos and Nebraska Cornhuskers. She even said that she is an Alabama football fan.
“We try to tell her not to be (an Alabama fan), but it doesn’t work,” Sarah Korth said with a smile.
Other than being part of her school’s cheer squad, Lauren enjoys horseback riding at S.M.I.L.E. Inc. in Madison County. S.M.I.L.E. is a program where children with a wide range of disabilities can learn to ride horses, acting as a form of recreational therapy.
Lauren also has been competing in the Special Olympics in Grand Island since she was 8 years old.
Although she sometimes struggles in school, a consequence many people with Williams syndrome share, Lauren said she loves her special education teacher, Jeanette Korth.
Her parents said that they think being a cheerleader has helped their daughter with her coordination, which is important since she wasn’t able to start walking until she was 3 years old because of the disorder.
When Lauren was less than a year old, she had hypercalcemia, condition that means her body has too much calcium in her blood. Too much calcium can lead to a plethora of problems, including weakened bones, kidney stones and it can change how your brain and heart work. She had to be fed a special formula that didn’t contain any calcium.
She grew out of the conditions about 18 months later.
She also has aortic stenosis, which is a heart problem. She has a cardiology appointment every year, and the family originally was hoping to be able to wait to do heart surgery until she was 10 years old.
“They told us that she would need surgery by the time she was 10,” Sarah Korth said. “(But) she is 18 and still hasn’t had to have (surgery), so we hope she never has to have it.”
Her parents said that she is not shy but quite social. Her dad, Dan, said she makes friends easily.
“When she was little, we would go to restaurants and she would never sit with us,” he said. “Within a few minutes she either knew somebody or made new friends and she would sit with them.”
Lauren was crowned homecoming queen this year at Lindsay Holy Family. She called a family friend who is the same age as her and asked him to go to homecoming with her. He didn’t hesitate, saying yes right away. Like most high school students, she danced the night away.
“I just want people to understand that I am a special needs kid,” Lauren said. “I hope this story helps people understand me more. I don’t feel like people understand me.”
Her mom emphasized similar sentiments.
“That’s what we would like, too,” Sarah Korth said. “Know how important it is for people to encourage their kids to include special needs kids. The smallest things mean a lot.”
Lauren said that she feels like she isn’t always included in some of the social activities with her peers. She said that even though some people — like her — do have special needs, they need to be included.
“Lauren might not be the smartest person, but we can all learn from her.” Sarah Korth said.
Lauren is a person who can instantly brighten your day with her contagious smile. And, if you are at Humphrey-Lindsay Holy Family basketball games this year, you will probably hear Lauren doing her “Go Big White” cheer.
And that’s bound to make you smile in response.