Cancer survivor’s family gives back to Norton Children’s Hospital

Tracy Ely and her family want to help others facing similar struggles

Hundreds of glass figurines glimmer under the light at one Kentucky State Fair booth, but one person shines brighter than all the sparkle. Her name is Tracy Ely.

“We were told by someone she would never read,” said Tracy’s mother, Sharon Ely.

Today, at 38 years old, one of Tracy’s many passions is reading. As her parents focus on assisting customers at their booth, Tracy blocks out all of the chatter and loses herself in Mark Twain’s “Adventures of Tom Sawyer.”

This year marked the Elys’ 50th year of opening their glass-blowing business — normally strictly wholesale — to retail sales at the fair. To mark that milestone, they chose to donate all of their proceeds to the Children’s Hospital Foundation.

“Norton Children’s Hospital just helped us so much,” Sharon said. “They got her through this, they got her through it.”

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The Elys hope their contribution might help other families through their own struggles.

Overcoming adversity

Tracy has beaten all odds. Early on, doctors discovered she had a heart murmur and Down syndrome. At age 2 she underwent open heart surgery at Norton Children’s Hospital. The surgery was a success, but Tracy couldn’t catch a break. At age 10 she was diagnosed with leukemia. She fought the disease for about five years, spending many of her days at Norton Children’s Hospital. One month before her 13th birthday, her chance of survival dropped from 30 percent to 10 percent, but Tracy beat cancer.

“She has really inspired us; she is just a great young lady,” Sharon said through tears. “She gives us hope.”

You won’t hear Tracy’s parents refer to her condition as Down syndrome. They prefer a term that better suits her — “Up syndrome.”

“She’s so caring, happy, never down,” Sharon said.

To Tracy’s father, Tom Ely, the term is more than just a reflection of her personality.

“To me, it’s about people who have faced adversity and overcame it,” Tom said. “Up syndrome inspires the rest of us that we can do it, too.”

The Elys want to help other families on their difficult journeys.

“What happened to us makes you more sensitive to other people’s needs,” Tom said.

If you weren’t able to make it to their booth at the Kentucky State Fair, the Elys ask that you consider making a donation to the Children’s Hospital Foundation.