Every little girl dreams of becoming a princess.
Of course, unless you’re Mia Thermopolis, and your grandmother is the queen of Genovia, it becomes increasingly clear as you grow up that the job title of “princess” is not the most realistic.
Fourteen-year-old Jody Furrh is not Mia Thermopolis, but this Kansas girl is the Princess Diaries Story that needs to be told.
For most princesses-in-training, it’s all about the gowns, the tiaras and the sparkly everything! For Jody, it’s all about her trusty four-legged side-kick, Justice.
Jody has epilepsy—a neurological condition she was diagnosed with as an infant that causes her to have seizures.
Growing up, kids at school would pick on Jody and bully her because of her condition. She recalls classmates shining strobe lights in her face, and teasing her for the uncontrollable seizures. In the fifth grade, a group of kids pinned her down and beat her. She suffered a seizure and a concussion.
“I don’t think they really understood,” Jody explained. “I just wanted to show them—and everyone—that I can be like everybody else, but it will take longer and I will probably do stuff a little different.”
Jody began seeking opportunities to speak with people across the country about her epilepsy.
She found her voice in beauty pageants.
She was paired up with Justice, her seizure alert dog. He can sense when she’s about to have a seizure and alerts her. Jody doesn’t compete without him. “He’s there to help me,” she explains. “He’ll come up and put his paws on my leg or nudge me.”
Since entering pageants and finding her voice, Jody has shown those bullies that she truly is more than just the girl with epilepsy. She currently holds two titles—ambassador for Ms. Abilities America, a pageant for people living with disabilities, and Miss Elegant Teen for Today’s International Women, a worldwide pageant with a focus on women and girls.
Jody regularly holds fundraisers to raise money and awareness about epilepsy.
In the last year alone, she’s racked up more than 500 hours of community service. And she’s even written a book! Justice, A Queen’s Seizure Alert Dog is about service animals and her own service dog’s role in her life.
Y’all, she’s only 14!
“Even though she was really beaten,” explains Jody’s mom, Brenda Falkenberg, “she didn’t stop there, and she always tries to do more and show people that she isn’t going to stop. She wants to educate people. And when people are mean to her, she doesn’t get mad and lash out. She just focuses on the people who are listening.”
Jody’s goal is to continue educating people about epilepsy and working hard to raise awareness while she sets out to secure a lifetime title in the Today’s International Women’s Pageant.
Her personal motto is this:
“To do what you can, when you can, for who you can, to change your world. So that’s what I’ll keep doing.”