Like her parents and older siblings, Hailey Hosler was born with a love for the outdoors. For Hailey, that means fishing, camping and canoeing. Her favorite thing is hunting—always with her bird dog, Daisy, in tow. “She does NOT leave my side!” says Hailey.
“What I like most about hunting is spending time with my brothers, spending time with you, spending time with the dogs and being outside,” she tells her dad, Rodney Hosler.
Hailey and her family get ready for hunting trips in the usual way, donning blaze orange vests and sturdy boots and loading gear into their truck.
There’s one piece of gear the Hoslers need that most families don’t: a special wheelchair that helps Hailey make her way through tall grass and muddy, often uneven, terrain. They need it because Hailey has spina bifida, a condition that limits the movement of her legs.
Spending time in nature has always been part of life for Hailey and her family. But the Hoslers haven’t always been Minnesotans—they lived in California at the time of Hailey’s birth. “They told us worst case scenario. That you’d never crawl, never walk,” Rodney remembers. “Luckily, we had one doctor who said that might not be the case.”
That doctor, a neurosurgeon, knew about Gillette Children’s Specialty Healthcare in St. Paul, Minnesota. “She gave us the advice to leave California and come to this part of the country to get as much help for Hailey as we could,” says Rodney.
The Hoslers moved to Minnesota when Hailey was 6 months old and she became a Gillette patient soon after. “Certain things in life are scary, but moving here wasn’t one of them,” says her dad.
Unlocking Hailey's Abilities
Hailey received her first wheelchair from Gillette at 18 months old—and her independence skyrocketed. Surgeries corrected her clubfeet and stabilized her spinal curvature, called kyphosis. Today, she’s an adventurous kid who knows what she wants and goes for it.
“You’re so strong-willed that being told ‘no’ isn’t an option for you,” Rodney says to his daughter. “You always try to do things that you’re told you can’t. Gillette showed us everything you’re capable of.”
A true Minnesotan, a little snow doesn’t dampen Hailey’s adventurous spirit. She loves sledding with her friends and, last winter, tried adaptive downhill skiing through a program offered by Gillette. “It was super fun!” says Hailey of the experience.
She's Never Left Behind
Whether hunting excursions or camping trips, the Hoslers make a point to include Hailey in their family activities. And in their family mishaps—just ask her about the time their fishing boat flooded, or when they nursed a chipmunk back to health only to have it bite her older brother.
Hailey’s family knows she wouldn’t have it any other way. “It’s a lot easier to take you with than to fight you and leave you behind,” jokes Rodney as he smiles at Hailey.
Rodney pauses for a moment as he finds the right words to tell Hailey how important—how loved—she is. “You would have changed me no matter what, Hailey, with or without your disability. You’ve changed the whole family. You’re perfect the way you are.”
Note: Read more stories like Hailey's in our 2016 Annual Report.