High School Senior Raising Awareness of PKU
Carissa Donica, a high school senior from Greenville, NC recently completed her Girl Scout Gold Award project (the highest honor in Girl Scouts) to raise awareness of phenylketonuria (PKU). PKU is one of a variety of conditions identified through newborn screening.
PKU is a rare, inherited disorder of metabolism in which people cannot process the amino acid phenylalanine, found in protein and artificial sweeteners. PKU is most detrimental in young children but remains a life-long challenge. People with PKU require an expensive and unique diet in order to limit phenylalanine. Through her Girl Scout Gold Award project, Carissa seeks to raise awareness of this condition and provide food for local children with PKU. She created a teaching module about PKU, available globally for anyone teaching genetics or biology.
In October 2021, Carissa embarked upon a motorcycle ride focused on fundraising and teaching people about PKU. Between the ride and the generosity of her Girl Scout Troop (#3063), she was able to raise approximately $7,000. Because the necessary low-protein food is expensive, the funds raised were used to provide low-protein supplies for the food pantry at the UNC Children’s Hospital for distribution to families of children with PKU. Carissa recently dropped off the dietary supplies with Christi Hall, Registered Dietitian with the UNC Pediatrics, Division of Genetics and Metabolism.
Children and families affected by PKU will directly benefit from Carissa’s efforts and the generosity of her community. UNC Children’s is proud of Carissa and grateful to her for such an impactful gift!