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Katie Rhoten

Katie Rhoten is flanked by her mother, Kristin, her father, Doug, and brother Spencer (partially hidden) dropping off toys and books Friday at Marshfield Clinic’s office in Chippewa Falls.

In the upcoming weeks, children needing surgery at Marshfield Clinic in Chippewa Falls will be given a toy to play with or a book to read.

And they will have 14-year-old Katie Rhoten of Eau Claire to thank.

The gifts are from “Katharine’s Wish,” a charity the South Middle School student founded five years ago.

“We know the toys will be loved and well used,” said Dr. Peter J. Cochrane of Marshfield Clinic, a surgeon who occasionally operates on children.

Giving a toy or a book to a child undergoing surgery helps take their mind off of their illness. “It makes it easier for them to go through (it),” Cochrane said.

That was the case for Rhoten, who was vacationing at Walt Disney World in Orlando, Fla. five years ago when she became ill. She underwent days of tests, and was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes.

Every time she was given a shot or underwent a procedure, the girl was given a stuffed animal.

“That gave me the idea to bring this to Eau Claire,” she said.

She said she hopes the gifts will put smiles on the faces of the children and their parents, who are also undergoing stress because of their child’s illness.

Rhoten said today she is managing her diabetes, and uses an insulin pump. Her diabetes has led to her developing rheumatoid arthritis in her knees.

“I have a very good support system with my family and friends,” she said.

She is doing well in her studies, having just received an offer to join the National Junior Honor Society.

“I hope I can work in the medical field,” she said.

Her charity is also enjoying success, distributing around 2,000 toys and books to medical facilities in Wisconsin and Minnesota.

Friday’s dropoff of about 400 toys and books was the first time the charity distributed gifts to a medical facility in Chippewa Falls.

“This is our biggest year. We had more toys to give,” Rhoten said.

She said the charity has raised $15,000 in grants and donations in the past five months. And if the goal of $25,000 is exceeded, the charity will start giving grants with the amounts over the goal.

She has a message to other children.

“You’re never too young to help others,” she said.

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