LITHIA, Fla. — Even at the young age of 13, Carleigh Doerr has already made career plans. The middle school student plans to attend the University of South Florida in Tampa and become a physical therapist.

She has dreams of working at the Shriners Hospital for Children on campus working with children just like her.

“I did not like being in bed. I wanted to get up and walk right after my surgery,” she said from her home Thursday morning.

The Lithia teenager has kept scrapbooks and photos of her time in the hospital. She first had femoral rotational osteotomy surgery there as an 8-year-old and went under the knife again a year later to fix her pigeon toe condition.

“(They) cut my femurs, turned them 45 degrees, and put me back together with hardware,” she said, describing the painful surgery. “I didn’t want to go outside with my friends. I wanted to lay down in bed and sleep.”

The recovery process took weeks and landed her in a wheelchair each time. It gave Carleigh a chance to get to know the staff at Shriners and sparked her interest in working there as a therapist one day.

“All the nurses and the doctors are really nice,” she said.

Two years ago, she approached her mother with an idea to give back to the hospital patients. She wanted to go above and beyond the tiny gift bags she was making for kids at Shriners. She wanted to fulfill their wish lists.

“That was amazing,” said Eric Clark. “Anything we can do for them is the least we can do.”

Erin and Carleigh hatched a plan. Carleigh began selling jewelry and art at local markets and started a GoFundMe page to raise money for toys. She raised $1,500 in each of her first two years and went Black Friday shopping to fill out the wish lists for Shiners patients.

She calls her outreach Carleigh’s Cause. She delivered her 2019 batch of gifts on Tuesday.

“It makes me happy because I know how it feels to be sort of scared or whatever because it’s sometimes nerve-wracking whenever you’re there because you’re going to have surgery, and it’s going to take a long time and you’re in pain,” said Carleigh.

This is something Carleigh plans to do as long as she can.

“I’m a pretty proud mom, yes,” said Erin with a smile. “This was a very personal mission for her because we lived it.”

To support Carleigh's Cause, visit her GoFundMe page.

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