Athlete Worth Watching: Kara Blanchard, Chesapeake High School Graduate
Oct 25, 2017 04:19PM ● Published by Nicole Gould
Photo by Michelle Sullivan
At first glance, Kara Blanchard resembles your average student athlete. She was a four-year varsity starter on Chesapeake High School’s basketball and lacrosse teams, maintained a 4.8 GPA, was a member of National Honor Society, and played for her club lacrosse team, CYLA Storm.
The graduated senior attacker, who will continue her lacrosse career at La Salle University, was named the 2016 team MVP and the 2016 Capital Gazette Coaches All-County Second Team. In 2017, she was named to the Capital Gazette Coaches All-County First Team, Capital Gazette All-County Team, and recognized as the team’s Offensive Player of the Year.
Rewind to March 2016 where Blanchard’s journey begins. After she began feeling complete numbness and tingling in her feet during her spring lacrosse season, Blanchard knew it was time to seek a doctor’s opinion.
After being told it was nothing and eventually subsiding, Blanchard thought she was in the clear, until December 2016 when her left eye went blurry during hoops season.
“It was the worst pain I’ve ever felt,” Blanchard recalls. “I couldn’t see while I was playing and it was really hard for me to catch the ball, so we went to see an ophthalmologist who told me that my optic nerve was swollen and inflamed.”
After meeting with a neurologist and getting multiple MRI’s at Johns Hopkins University Hospital, Blanchard finally had received answers. The diagnosis—Multiple Sclerosis.
“I had no clue what MS was,” Blanchard admits. “All I knew was that people became disabled from it. It was super, super scary.”
While Blanchard already leads a healthy and active lifestyle, doctors assured her she would have no problem continuing to live her life and pursuing her athletic career at the collegiate level.
Almost immediately after her diagnosis, Blanchard sprang into action with the determination to raise awareness for the disease. With the help of her basketball coach, Maria Gray, and the rest of the Cougars, Blanchard hosted a MS Awareness Night during their game against Glen Burnie, where they sold orange t-shirts that read ‘Cougars for Kara’ on the back and ‘Help Cure Multiple Sclerosis’ inside a ribbon on the front. With the help from Baltimore Ravens players Brandon Williams and Crockett Gilmore, Kara raised over $9,300 to be donated to the National Multiple Sclerosis Society.
“It was really surprising and exciting too because all the kids were hyped up about it and it helped us raise money,” Blanchard says. “Pretty much the whole county rallied around it. Glen Burnie helped us make ribbons and they wore the shirts, Severna Park held their own little fundraiser, Southern showed up in orange ribbons, and Northeast showed up in the orange shirts.”
Her efforts didn’t stop there. Blanchard took part in Walk MS: Baltimore back in April where she became the number one team fundraiser raising over $12,000. While attending La Salle University, she plans to take part in the MS Walk held in Philadelphia.
Continuing to raise awareness and fundraise in an effort to help find a cure, Blanchard currently takes part in five different research studies at JHUH where she participates every three months, fills out surveys, undergoes testing, and gets her blood drawn.
Outside of her diagnosis and fundraising efforts, Blanchard is just your typical high school graduate anticipating the start of her college athletic career.
“I’m really looking forward to the competition and being pushed to play my hardest,” Blanchard admits. “A lot of people never think at this age that there is room for improvement, but I know once I go to college that I’m going to improve a lot and I think it’ll be fun to see what happens.”
While Blanchard had other options, including St. Joseph’s University and Queen’s University of Charlotte, she ultimately decided on La Salle because the atmosphere, along with the lacrosse team, was the perfect fit.
Blanchard looks to study nursing with the hopes of one day working in pediatrics.
Despite her MS diagnosis, Blanchard has continued to maintain an optimistic outlook on life and plans to move forward with nothing but determination in her eyes.
“For any athlete with MS, staying active and eating healthy is so important,” Blanchard explains. “People that know someone with MS, don’t take anything for granted and be supportive all the way through because it’s tough.”