Story by Karrey Britt, courtesy The Lawrence Journal-World
Alexis Foster seems like a typical 8-year-old girl, but she’s not. She’s extraordinary.
Six years ago, her left foot was severed in a mowing accident but she hasn’t let that deter her from doing whatever she wants to do.
She runs, swims, participates in gymnastics and pageants and plays softball, and she’s good at all of them, especially pageants.
The Eudora girl began competing in them when she was 4 and she has accumulated eight crowns and two dozen trophies. In mid-July, she will make her third trip to the national Our Diamond Miss Pageant in Chickasha, Okla.
Her mother, Donna Foster, said the pageants are not like those portrayed on the reality television series “Toddlers & Tiaras.” There’s not as much makeup or fighting. Instead, the girls and their families support each other and often become good friends.
For Alexis, the pageants also have played an important part in her healing process.
“She can be in the prettiest dress and it doesn’t matter,” Donna said.
The pageant includes a photo portfolio, modeling, talent and interview competition. She said the judges will ask her about her favorite color, animal or place to visit. One time, they asked who she would like to be for a day and her response was Avril Lavigne. “She’s so cool and she’s a rock star and she’s awesome and she’s my hero,” Alexis said.
For the talent competition, she sings. She belted out “Part of Me” by Katy Perry for the state contest, but plans to sing “Second Hand Rose” by Barbra Streisand at nationals.
Janene Snyder, of Top Spot Photography in Eudora, donates her time to help Alexis with her portfolio. They met about a year and a half ago because Snyder’s granddaughter attended Donna’s home day care. She heard that they were needing pictures and she agreed to help. She had no idea about Alexis’s injury until she asked about her brace during a photo shoot.
“She just popped it off and showed me,” Snyder said. “I was just like, ‘Wow. You are amazing.’”
Snyder said she couldn’t believe that she was meeting the girl who was in the accident six years ago when she first moved to Eudora.
“I heard the screams when it happened and I was outside and it was like two blocks from me. I remember the helicopter and the sirens and just praying for the family,” she said.
On June 10, 2006, Donna was mowing her husband’s grandparents’ yard in Eudora with a riding lawn mower. She said the grandparents weren’t feeling well so she didn’t make her two children — Alexis and Philip, who were ages 2 and 8, respectively, at the time — go inside the home.
Before she backed up the mower, she saw both of her children and mistakenly thought they wouldn’t move, but Alexis did. She ran behind the mower as Donna was backing up.
“It was horrible, absolutely horrible. I replay it too much in my head,” she said.
Donna, who operates a home day care, had taken First Aid classes the week before the accident, so she did the best she could to stop the bleeding as they waited for help to arrive.
Alexis was taken by helicopter to Children’s Mercy Hospital in Kansas City, Mo., where doctors decided it would be best not to send her elsewhere to have the foot reattached. They opted to save what they could as quickly as possible.
She spent five weeks in the hospital and had 14 surgeries. Within weeks, she was back at home and started walking again.
“When she first started walking, she would walk on the side of it,” said Phil Foster, her father. “After one week of physical therapy, she was walking heel to toe and then just started running. Most people who see her do not notice it at all.”
Alexis either wears different sized shoes or uses a prosthesis to get around when she’s not barefoot. Her parents say she is constantly surprising doctors who said she was lucky to be alive.
“I truly believe God did this for a reason,” Donna said. “For some reason, this was done and we are going to make the best of it.”
Every year on the date of the accident, they celebrate the birthday of Little Foot, a nickname that Alexis has given her severed foot. They sing “Happy Birthday” and have cake.
This year, Donna marked the occasion by mowing for the first time since the accident.
“That was a huge step,” she said. “We go through steps every day.”
She said the accident has been the hardest on Alexis’s older brother, Philip, who witnessed it happen. The family has received therapy to help cope.
“As parents, we are still recovering,” Phil said. “It’s something we live with every day and some people make rude comments and it still hurts.”