Patient gives back to Shriners

Leigh Dittman, a fifth grade student at Lutz Elementary, is not an average 10-year-old. Over the course of the past seven years, she has raised more than $260,000 for the Shriners Hospital for Children.

Dittman is being treated for osteogenesis imperfecta, a genetic condition that makes bones brittle and easily broken, at Shriners Hospital for Children on campus.

On Sept. 11, Leigh and her family will host the 7th Annual Leigh Dittman Charity Event at the India Cultural Center. The open event begins at 6 p.m., and attendees are encouraged to donate to Shriners Hospital, which, according to its website, has provided free specialized pediatric care to more than 36,000 children since opening in 1985.

Ellen Dittman, Leigh’s mother, said she knew from medical tests that her daughter would be born with an orthopedic disorder.

“She was a patient before she was even born,” she said.

Yet at the age of three, Leigh Dittman decided to make a difference. Unlike her peers, Leigh requested that donations be made to the hospital for her third birthday in lieu of gifts.

“I had already had so much treatment,” Leigh Dittman said. “I wanted our family to help the hospital that is helping me … To me, it’s like a second home.”

Ellen Dittman said she feels the same way and appreciated the hospitals efforts in treating her daughter

for the disease, which currently has no cure.

“I think it’s a wonderful hospital,” she said. “It doesn’t feel like a hospital – it’s like a group of family members to support you.”

The event will feature silent and live auctions, food, drinks and raffle prizes. Next year’s planned prizes include a Harley-Davidson motorcycle, tickets for which are currently being sold at Harley-Davidson franchises in Brandon, Tampa and New Port Richey.

Leigh Dittman said the work she has done has provided her with a sense of fulfillment.

“I feel really proud and happy,” she said. “I’m making such a big difference, and other kids are following my footsteps.”

The event will be held at 511 Lynn Road. More information can be found about Leigh and her family at