SCHENECTADY, N.Y. -- On the outside, Isabella Sementilli appears to be just a typical 14-year-old girl, a teenager enjoying life to the fullest. But on the inside, Isabella is dealing with an invisible disability.
In 2013, Isabella was in fifth grade when a student yanked out her chair as she went to sit down. Isabella suffered a serious concussion, fractured her tailbone, and had back and neck injuries. However, things got worse a few months later after a basketball hit her in the head, leading to a second concussion, and a lasting, debilitating headache disorder.
“Playing games, just video games, playing outside, throwing the football -- I couldn’t do any of that anymore," Sementilli said.
Isabella's mother Pola says her daughter couldn't do the simple things anymore. Instead, all they were doing was going doctor to doctor.
“It was really hard in the beginning because instead of getting better, she was getting worse,” Pola Sementilli said.
Through it all, Isabella stayed positive and found new activities to stay busy. That includes knitting and baking. In 2014, Isabella started making cookies called Iznettes. She was selling them at her family's restaurant, Scotti's in Schenectady. Money raised from the sales were donated to charities and organizations tied to anti-bullying organizations and brain injury.
“It really makes me happy all these people enjoy my cookies and to give back to these organizations makes me really happy,” Isabella said.
For her effort and inspiration, Isabella has been selected as the youth honoree for the 2017 Hudson Valley March On for Brain Injury at the Walkway Over the Hudson in Poughkeepsie. The event is now in its fourth year, and organizers are hoping to raise $80,000.
“The awareness is key to increasing the invisibility of the organization," said BIANYS Executive Director Eileen Reardon. "We want more people in support groups.”
The event begins with registration at 8 a.m. on August 26.