Meet Je’Nailya: A High School Senior Who Plans to Make Everyone Feel Beautiful.

By Lynne Golodner

“Sickle cell is an up-and-down roller coaster,” says Je’Nailya Belew. “One minute you can be fine, and then three years ago, I lost my ability to walk.”

When she was in the hospital, her best friends from Kids Kicking Cancer (KKC) – Danielle McKay, Haley Wallace and Paris Davis – were by her side.

Thankfully, Je’Nailya regained her ability to walk. It took time, effort and patience, but she got there, thanks to a swarm of support from family, friends and KKC’s Heroes Circle community. Now, she’s graduating from Vista Meadows Academy and plans to pursue a cosmetology career.

“I want to make people feel beautiful,” she says. “Like I do. I feel amazing.”

Je’Nailya first came to KKC when she was eight, and soon after, she met Haley. “We did everything together,” says Je’Nailya.

Then Paris came into her life, and became her best friend. “She’s my everything,” she says. “We just clicked. We were inseparable.”

Danielle joined the trio, and they became a pack of besties, giggling during class, being goofy, supporting one another at good moments, and bad.

These friendships happened suddenly, Je’Nailya says, “very unexpected, but it fit. It was the type of friendship where you knew you were going to be with these people for the rest of your life.”

As they grew older, the quartet passed the torch from being the kids in the program to shepherding the littles ones.

“I hear the stories, and I hear what they’ve been through,” Je’Nailya says. “I look at it and say, ‘Dang, I used to be in that position, a nervous kid, a new kid, I’ve been there.’”

Which is why she’s so dedicated to giving back and helping out.

“KKC”, she says, “is a lifetime thing. You step in, you’re permanently with it, forever. I know I can call any one of them and be like, ‘Hey,’ or if I need to vent, or if I need somebody to listen, they’ll answer.”

While she and her friends are finishing the chapter of childhood, it’s not an ending, says Je’Nailya. It’s just the beginning. “We can only go up from here,” she says.

“Je’Nailya is outgoing, bubbly, the drama queen,” says her mother, Wilma Clay. “We did all the birthday parties together, hanging out, being in class, all the girls have always been close.”

In fact, all the kids, from all four families, were part of Wilma’s recent wedding.

“We’re just family,” she says. “We call each other sisters. When they all come together, they pick up where they left off. The program has become one big family. It’s really, really amazing.”

The power breathing exercises that Je’Nailya learned through KKC keep her grounded, too.

“You got this,” she tells herself. “Let it flow with the wind. Just do what you do best.”

“KKC is a really great program, and it helped me a lot. Everything’s going to fall into place. I breathe in the light – my happiness, my hopes, my dreams, everything that keeps me going. I breathe out the darkness – stress, indecisiveness, fear of being disappointed.”

“Nobody can knock your crown off,” says Je’Nailya, who, thanks to KKC, believes her purpose now is “to teach the world.”

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