Our Inspiring Ambassadors

Our inspiring patients are the reason we gather every other year for the Carousel Ball.

Erik and Luke

Erik and Luke’s Story

A family finds hope at CHOP and now advocates for continued autism acceptance, research and support.

Luke and Esmeralda

Luke and Esmeralda’s Story

CHOP support helps Luke and Esmeralda’s family access vital resources. The family is grateful to have such a positive community.

Noah and Nate

Noah and Nate’s Story

Siblings with very different manifestations of autism both find the support and resources they need through CHOP’s Center for Autism Research.


Snai’s Story

After being diagnosed with autism, Snai began receiving various therapies. But his family’s emphasis on emotional intelligence has truly helped him thrive.


Nicky’s Story

The youngest of four children with autism, Nicky receives early support through the Center for Autism Research.

  • Previous Carousel Ball Patient Ambassadors
    Anthony smiling

    Anthony’s Story

    When Anthony meets someone, he looks them in the eye, thrusts out his right hand and says, “Hi. I’m Anthony Martinez Jr. Pleased to meet you.” “Anthony wants to meet everybody,” says his mom, Sandra. This wasn’t always the case. Diagnosed with autism as a toddler, he was slow to talk and rarely made eye contact. The team at CHOP connected the family with assessment and early intervention services, and Anthony received extensive at-home therapy sessions for several years. Now 19, Anthony is learning the skills he needs to work and live independently.

    Celi smiling

    Celi’s Story

    Diagnosed with autism as a toddler, Celi didn’t say a word until she was 4. “She didn’t make a lot of eye contact,” Megan says of her daughter’s early childhood. “She never spoke. She didn’t say ‘mommy.'” For years, Celi came to CHOP for checkups and had speech, occupational and applied behavior analysis therapy at home, five days a week. Now 14, she loves making art — and performing standup comedy! Back-and-forth conversations remain difficult for her, but she is thriving in a mainstream middle school.

    Julian smiling

    Julian’s Story

    Five-year-old Julian is on the autism spectrum and was nonspeaking. After a speech-language evaluation at CHOP, he began using an augmentative and alternative communications device. Now Julian can quickly get the device to say the words for what he wants. In an even more exciting development, he has started to say many of the words as well. “Julian was able to catch on so fast. We have seen such great improvement,” says his mother, Theresa. “It’s truly amazing. We have CHOP to thank.”

    Hailee smiling

    Hailee’s Story

    Not much stops Hailee — at least not for long. She’s had three open heart surgeries and had a pacemaker implanted — all by the age of 5. Despite it all, Hailee, now 8, remains the active, silly and competitive girl she’s been all along.

    Finn smiling

    Finn’s Story

    Before Finn was born, he was diagnosed with a rare birth defect that involves the heart and other organs. Finn’s heart didn’t have separate chambers and his lungs were reversed. After several surgeries, Finn, now 3, is an energetic preschooler.

    Paulina smiling

    Paulina’s Story

    Paulina’s leukemia was so aggressive, it had come back three times. Just a few years ago, doctors had almost no options for such relapsed patients. But CHOP’s Cancer Immunotherapy Program can reprogram a type of white blood cell to destroy cancerous cells. Paulina and her family traveled to CHOP from Mexico to receive the therapy. She remains cancer-free.

    Hannah smiling

    Hannah’s Story

    The summer before Hannah started second grade, she saw a star for the first time. She had been born with a rare retinal disease and was going blind. Then she came to CHOP to receive a gene therapy developed at CHOP and Penn that targeted her particular genetic blindness. Slowly, the world revealed itself to her, one star, one flower and one sunset at a time.

    Rhyan smiling

    Rhyan’s Story

    Imagine living with a disease that causes excruciating pain, when every fever means a trip to the emergency room, where a stroke is a very real possibility. Children like Rhyan with sickle cell disease face these challenges. But CHOP researchers don’t believe in “incurable.” We are on the brink of two cures: one for people living with the disease, and another for those diagnosed while still in the womb.

    Abby and Erin with parents

    Abby and Erin’s Story

    Today, Abby and Erin are able to look at each other and practice rolling over. Such everyday actions are remarkable for the twin girls – because until the summer of 2017, they were connected at the head. After an 11-hour surgery involving nearly 30 CHOP team members, the twins were separated. It was the 24th time doctors at CHOP separated conjoined twins, more than any other hospital in the Western Hemisphere.