ERIE — Like many 16-year-old girls, Corry resident Kristy Vaughn has dreams of getting her driver’s license, going to college and pursuing a career.

The athlete also hopes to continue her sled hockey training and join a college-level team at the University of New Hampshire.

But being able to accomplish such common goals is overwhelming at times to Kristy and her parents, Robert and Debra Vaughn, who at one point thought their daughter wouldn’t get to experience many of life’s opportunities.

Kristy, who suffers partial paralysis from the waist down, began receiving medical treatment at Shriners Hospitals for Children in Erie in 1997, when she was 3 years old.

“We didn’t think that she would ever walk again,” said Robert Vaughn. “But, Shriners has taught her to be an individual and to take care of herself.”

The Vaughns were one of three Shiners’ families who had the opportunity to share their story with U.S. Sen. Bob Casey, who was in Erie Monday.

The Democratic senator began the day with a town hall meeting at Blasco Library to discuss health-care reform, specifically The Affordable Health Care Choices Act. Afterward, Casey was taken to Shriners, 1645 W. 8th St., to meet with the families and tour the facility.

“I’m looking forward to learning more about the treatment and services Shriners provides,” Casey said. “This is just further evidence that the delegates made the right decision in keeping this facility open.”

In July, Shriners’ national delegates were faced with a vote as to whether or not they would close six of their 22 hospitals — including Erie — as a way to save money.

The Masonic organization’s hospital board proposed to close largely because an $8.5 million endowment fund lost more than $3 billion in the recent stock market decline.

Prior to the vote, Erie-area families and lawmakers made a very public effort to demonstrate support for the Erie hospital, which has been open since 1927.

The proposal to close was ultimately withdrawn and the delegates decided to keep the Erie location open, along with the five other hospitals that were under consideration.

See the Journal's Tuesday, September 1st edition for full story.

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