An 8-year-old from Mastic is showing Suffolk County that you’re never too young to make a difference.
Caitlyn Michiels wrote to her legislator, Rudy Sunderman, last month to bring his attention to an issue close to her heart. In this letter, Caitlyn explained that she had been diagnosed with a rare eye disease known as Anterior Bilateral Uveitis, which is the third leading cause of blindness in children. Caitlyn explained that over the past four months she has seen multiple doctors and has undergone multiple treatments, including a low-dose chemotherapy treatment. Due to the rarity of the disease, not much is known about it or how it is treated, so Caitlyn’s goal in writing to Legislator Sunderman was to raise awareness about children’s eye health. She had remembered that Legislator Sunderman had spoken to her Girl Scout Troop and told the girls that if they ever need help with anything they can contact him.
When Legislator Sunderman received Caitlyn’s letter, he did not hesitate and began working on a resolution that would designate the month of August as Children’s Eye Health and Safety Awareness Month in Suffolk County.
“When Caitlyn first brought this issue to my attention, my heart went out to her and her family,” said Legislator Sunderman. “Introducing this resolution to help Caitlyn raise awareness is only the first step to help Caitlyn and other young children in similar situations to help ensure early detection in the future.”
While August had already been designated as Children’s Eye Health and Safety Month in other states and counties across the country, Suffolk County had yet to do so. The resolution stresses the importance of children receiving routine eye exams because early detection is usually the first step in preventing disease from spreading. The resolution also directs the Suffolk County Department of Health Services to develop educational materials on eye health in children and to distribute these materials, and calls for promotion and education on the Department’s webpage and via social media in the month of August.
What has become known as “Caitlyn’s Resolution” was first assigned to the Suffolk County Legislature’s Health Committee to be taken under consideration at its April 4 meeting. Caitlyn attended this meeting with her family and her Girl Scout leader with a prepared speech about her illness and all she has gone through. Caitlyn’s story immediately touched the heart of Health Committee Chair Legislator William Spencer and all the members of the committee, who agreed to co-sponsor this important legislation.
Caitlyn’s Resolution then went before the full Suffolk County Legislature on April 9. It was approved unanimously, and Caitlyn received a standing ovation for her hard work and advocacy.
Caitlyn is an active member of Girl Scout Troop 2140 through which she participates in many charitable community activities including food drive collections, pet food drive collections, community clean-ups, and many other community service initiatives. She first met Legislator Sunderman when he spoke to the troop about his role as a county legislator and how he can help the Girl Scouts with any of their community projects or initiatives.
"In the Girl Scouts we are told that if you make your voice heard you can make a difference in this world. I never imagined I could accomplish this by simply writing a letter to my local legislator. I hope this will help more kids like me," said Caitlyn.
“Caitlyn is the perfect example of how one voice, no matter how small, can make a difference,” added Legislator Sunderman. “I look forward to working with her on other advocacy initiatives in the future and helping her to spread the word about the importance of eye health.”