May 17, 2012
FOR RELEASE AT WILL
In the attached picture, Grafton High School senior Drew Bentley receives the 2012 Outstanding Youth Award for Courage from Board of Supervisors Chairman Tom Shepperd.
As a young, bright, sports-minded 15-year-old, Drew began experiencing acute joint pain and was diagnosed with Ankylosing Spondylitis, a progressive arthritis and chronic inflammatory autoimmune disease that causes inflammation of the vertebrae and can result in severe pain and stiffness of the spine, knees, hips, ribs and shoulder joints. There is currently no medical cure for the disease, which can frequently produce episodes of excruciating pain, as well as nausea and fatigue.
Drew was suddenly confronted with the numbing physical, mental and emotional challenges of coping with this disease and its uncertain prognosis. His recommended medical treatment now includes a strict regimen of IV infusions every six weeks, a weekly injection Drew administers himself, and taking numerous pills each day in the hope of slowing the rate of the disease’s symptoms and effects.
Drew’s doctors encouraged him to stay active, since regular exercise and movement is beneficial for his joints. Rather than letting this obstacle overwhelm him, Drew quietly determined from the outset to face his challenges head on and work to pursue his goals. Drew has excelled academically, is a member of the National Honor Society, was named Grafton’s Senior of the Month last December, and has volunteered in a variety of school-sponsored service projects such as food drives, the Toys for Tots program, and the Virginia Breast Cancer Foundation’s “Think Pink Day.” Through his treatment plan, Drew has also continued to play lacrosse and football, where he has been a four-year letterman on Grafton’s Varsity team and played as a starting Offensive Guard this year.
“If you did not know that Drew had this disease, you wouldn’t know it by meeting him either,” said one of his nominators and Grafton’s Fellowship of Christian Athletes co-sponsor Deborah Wright. “He does not allow others to treat him differently, nor does he ask for special treatment, but fights through this with courage. He is a determined young man who has been a strong role model for many and who truly believes that all things are possible.”
Pictured from left: FCA co-sponsor and nominator Deborah Wright, AP Psychology Teacher and nominator Dena Montini, Drew’s parents Gina and Andre Bentley, Drew Bentley and Board of Supervisors Chairman Tom Shepperd.