PEYTON, Colo. – As shoppers arrived at a grocery store in Colorado Springs, a girl who cannot speak asked, “Would you like to buy some Girl Scout cookies?”
“Thank you for supporting the Girl Scouts,” said Tyra Young, 10, speaking through her augmented communication device Feb. 12 in Safeway. While raising donations by selling cookies, she giggled, greeted patrons – she danced, Gangnam Style.
“I like selling cookies with her, she’s unique. … She enjoys playing with me,” said Kira-Lynn Lee, 8, sharing a booth with Tyra. They’ll split credit for the evening’s sales.
“Tyra likes being around her typical peers,” said her mother, Misty Young.Tyra isn’t typical, genetically. Her doctors believe she’s the only person in the world missing two chromosomes, said Young. Geneticists are seeking grants to better understand how her condition happened and how she survived.
By missing part of chromosomes 15 and 22, Tyra developed Prader-Willi syndrome and Velo-Cardio-Facial syndrome. Her troubles include feeling a full stomach, weak muscles and slow mental development. She cannot stand for long periods or articulate words.
But when it comes to cookies, Tyra is the top seller for Troop 2295. During her first two years in the Girl Scouts, she sold nearly 3,000 boxes. This year’s brief fundraiser for field trips and troop gatherings ends this month. Raising 60 cents per box, she’s sold about 800.
“Tyra loves interacting with people,” said Young. “She likes learning the business skills, receiving the money and handing out the cookies, but she loves the social aspect.”
“She likes learning the business skills, receiving the money and handing out the cookies, but she loves the social aspect.”
Tyra attended Springs Ranch Elementary School in Falcon School District 49. Now a sixth grader at nearby Skyview Middle School, her favorite subject is physical education. She’s learning archery using an adaptive bow with a stationary grip.
“I’m so glad our school district is moving toward inclusion,” said Young, explaining that it’s helping with vocabulary and grammar. “She learns more by being with her typical peers. … She likes to do all the same things. She loves her friends and she has tons of them.
“She likes Justin Beiber, boys, horses – they have a lot in common,” she said. “The other children know she’s different and accept it. She learns from them and they learn from her.
“Socially, she’s doing really well, as everyone can see,” said Young.
Troop 2295 will honor Tyra’s enthusiasm this summer. When troop leaders asked about her favorite activities, Young suggested Elitch Gardens in Denver. They’re planning to use part of their proceeds to visit the amusement park, known for both family and thrill rides.
“She likes all the scary rides – the ones I won’t go on,” said Young. “She’ll go on with her dad or her brother. She’s the kid who’d ask to bungee jump.
“We named her after Tyra Banks, because she’s beautiful in and out.”