Reds honor Lakota West freshman/MLB.com reporter
WestChesterBuzz.com will count down the area’s top 12 stories of 2012 this month, concluding with West Chester’s most discussed topic of the year on Sunday, Dec. 30.
More than 100 parents and classmates came out to Great American Ball Park Thursday, May 24, 2012 in support of Lakota West freshman Meggie Zahneis, who was named the honorary captain prior to the Reds game.
The 15-year-old West Chester resident’s story captured the heart of Major League Commissioner Bud Selig, who in return offered her the job of being an MLB.com youth reporter prior to the 2012 season.
Zahneis’ story, however, begins when doctors operated on her twice before her first birthday for a condition they couldn’t figure out.
“We went to a ton of doctors and neurologists. Everybody across the board tried to figure out what was wrong,” said Meggie’s mother Cindy Zahneis.
“It was a very, very tough time. There were a lot of tears shed and a lot of ‘why us’ and so on, but she always had a smile on her face. She was a good baby and a sharp little girl.
“She kept doing things to amaze us, so that made it easier.”
After nine months of not knowing her daughter’s condition, a specialist in New York finally said Meggie had HSAN II or Hereditary Sensory and Autonomic Neuropathy, type 2. HSAN II, which has only approximately 50 known cases in the world, is a condition that affects everyone differently.
For Meggie, she has inability to feel pain, temperature and touch to the same degree as everyone else. It has also affected her growth and has resulted into 14 surgeries in her life.
Meggie, who had to have cochlear implant surgery to help her hearing, also underwent a bilateral hip surgery as a seventh grader that limited her to a wheelchair for three months.
“Going to school like that, with everybody staring at you when all you want is to be like everyone else, was really tough on her,” Cindy said.
With the surgeries fresh in her mind and the constant feeling that she was different, Meggie wrote about her story and entered it in the 2011 Major League Baseball Breaking essay contest.
Meggie’s essay left an impression on Sharon Robinson, daughter of hall-of-fame baseball player Jackie Robinson, who visited Lakota Ridge Junior School in May of 2011 to recognize Meggie as the contest’s grand-prize winner.
The shy eighth grader, who never wanted more than to just blend in with her classmates, shared her essay with the entire Lakota Ridge student body.
The grand prize meant that she would be honored at a Cincinnati Reds game and would receive a all-expense paid trip to 2011 MLB All Star game in Phoenix.
From there, Zahneis story didn’t go away and eventually got in the hands of Selig who called Meggie three times before offering her the reporter gig.
“When I first entered that contest, I thought that it was no more than good writing practice,” said Meggie, who is about finish year freshman year at Lakota West.
“Getting this writing experience is so valuable, it is just priceless. I am just trying to soak it all in as much as I can.”
Since her column started running on MLB.com in late February, Zahneis has written about the game’s top athletes, interviewed Nick Lachey and “made a lot of the girls at her school jealous” by meeting Josh Hutcherson of “The Hunger Games.”
In addition, she has become good friends with the commissioner’s granddaughter Natalie Prieb and with Reds second baseman Brandon Phillips.
“Just hearing her story really motivated me,” Phillips said. “It shows you that you can never take things for granted.
“She is such a bright person, I am just glad I met her. It really changed my life.”