Local teen named Sanford Children’s ambassador

From the rodeo arena to the basketball court, 16-year-old Kaycee from Clear Lake, South Dakota, defies all odds.

Most people don’t immediately know she has spina bifida or understand the challenges she’s overcome. Besides the orthotic braces hidden beneath her cowboy boots and jeans, there are few noticeable differences between Kaycee and her twin sister, Morgan, or other kids her age.

But behind her serene smile is one extraordinary, tenacious kid who has earned the title of this year’s Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals Champion for Sanford Children’s Hospital in Sioux Falls.

Kaycee’s story


Kaycee was diagnosed with spina bifida before birth. Her parents, Keith and Jodi, were just adjusting to the idea of having twins, when Jodi’s 20-week prenatal ultrasound revealed signs of concern.

The family’s physician in Watertown referred the couple to Sanford Children’s Hospital in Sioux Falls, where the medical team confirmed that one of the babies had spina bifida. This condition occurs when the spinal column fails to develop or close properly, leaving the spinal cord and surrounding nerves exposed through a hole in the back. It affects 1,500 to 2,000 kids in the U.S. every year and can lead to a range of lifelong cognitive and mobility challenges.

“They prepared us for a wheelchair, walking with a cane, not walking at all, to having learning disabilities,” Jodi said, thinking back to all the unknowns they faced.

The day the twins were delivered was a whirlwind.

“They had the Giraffe OmniBed ready for the babies to be put in,” Jodi said. “They whisked Morgan off to the regular nursery and Kaycee went to the NICU right away.”

Two hours after she was born, Kaycee underwent the delicate surgery to repair the exposed part of her spinal cord. She spent eight days in the Boekelheide NICU recovering before going home.

Since then, Kaycee has undergone three more surgeries at the Castle of Care and sees her care team regularly for checkups. She has also attended Sanford Children’s Spirit Camp—a special summer camp just for kids with spina bifida that is made possible with donor support.

“You don’t have to travel halfway across the country to get the quality of care we have right here in South Dakota,” Keith said. “Hands down, we are very fortunate.”

Thanks to her care team at Sanford Children’s, and generous supporters like you, there are no limits to what Kaycee can do today. The ninth grader loves riding horses, barrel racing, playing basketball and proving her abilities are stronger than her disability.

“She’s the toughest kid I know,” Keith said. “There’s nothing she can’t do. I know that for a fact.”

Throughout 2023, Kaycee will serve as the face of all children treated at the Castle of Care, the region’s only Children’s Miracle Network (CMN) Hospitals partner, and inspire continued giving to support local kids and their families.

Give for children. Give for good.

When you give for Sanford Children’s, 100% of every dollar is maximized to its fullest potential—to help kids like Kaycee reach theirs. Gifts support priorities like:

  • Child Life, the school program, spiritual care and other services that are never billed to patients’ families
  • Financial assistance to help families with the costs of meals, lodging and travel while their child is in the hospital
  • Specialty summer camps, like Spirit Camp for children with spina bifida
  • Lifesaving pediatric equipment like ventilators, ultrasound machines and Giraffe OmniBeds, which mimic a mother’s womb for NICU infants
  • And so much more


100% of every gift helps care for local kids


Sanford Children’s Hospital is fueled by generous donors who believe every child deserves a healthy future.

As a nonprofit, 100% of every gift supports the good that is felt and seen in everything from fairytale spaces to lifesaving equipment, family and patient services, research and more. It all adds up to help recruit and retain expert caregivers in 35 pediatric specialties, maintain the most advanced NICU in the Dakotas, and deliver world-class care to 12,000 local children and their families each year.

Give for children