From Ashes to Beauty

Given the strength to overcome her own struggles, child sponsor Karis Feezell strives to help others overcome theirs. 

Hello, my name is Karis Feezell. I am a determined, strong and compassionate 19-year-old artist who has struggled with physical issues all my life. I have cerebral palsy, Beckwith-Wiedemann syndrome, and birth defects in my hands and feet. When I was born, the umbilical cord was wrapped around my neck, resulting in lack of oxygen for eight minutes until I was revived. During this incident, my cerebellum was injured, causing constant, shaky tremors. The tremors make it a struggle to control my hands, particularly opening them.

That I have these issues, and can still draw and paint, is proof to me that God is still working miracles today.

In spite of the doctors’ prognosis that I would have a severe learning disability, cleft down my head, and split tongue due to the Beckwith-Wiedemann syndrome, I process information, think and talk normally. While these symptoms never manifested in me, I do still have the BWS mark, a strawberry-colored patch of skin at the top and base of my spine, and dimples behind my ears. It is a daily reminder that God does fight my battles, and that nothing is out of His control.

A talented artist, Karis sponsors Wen through the money she earns teaching private art lessons.

I used to think of my mind as a bird inside an inescapable cage: my defective body. I wanted to do and achieve so much, but could not because of my physical issues, thinking sometimes it would have been easier if I was mentally delayed. Now, I believe one of God’s purposes in this was to allow me to connect deeper with both worlds, the non-disabled and the disabled.

As I have grown, my focus has shifted to the things I can do, and the things I have achieved. In pushing through difficult tasks, I found the strength to turn my disabilities into abilities. The gift of art has shown me that beauty really can come from ashes. Art is just another way to show God’s amazing power; I only want to give God honor through my gift.

I have always loved helping and giving to others. I can’t describe the joy I feel when I see that I can help make people’s lives better. I know part of the reason for this is because so many people in my life have helped me. I have been so blessed that the need and desire to bless others is a large part of me. Everyone has struggles. And, because I have been given the strength to overcome mine, I want to help others in overcoming theirs.

I first heard of Holt International when I was 17 at a Winter Jam concert. The sudden urge I felt to help make a difference in someone’s life moved me. I went out to the tables with all the children’s faces and found Wen’s card. First, I noticed her eyes were extremely sad and heavy, like they had witnessed things a child her age should never have to witness. Then I read her name — “Wen.” It was such a simple and beautiful name.

I decided then that I had to sponsor her.

At the time, my only steady income was teaching private art lessons to two students, but it was enough to sponsor Wen. I was truly blessed.

Wen and her family live in poverty. Her father passed away when she was around 5 years old and her mother left that same year. Wen’s grandparents have raised her, but they have a very small income, so it is difficult to provide for Wen’s needs. My sponsorship is helping to pay for her schooling. She is a smart and beautiful girl, making high grades in her classes, and she even helps the other students. Drawing and reading are a few of her favorite hobbies. She now lives with her teacher because the school is so far away from her grandparents, but she visits them on the weekends.

Karis with her dog, Jack.
Karis with her dog, Jack.

Since I began sponsoring her, she seems happier and more vigilant in her work and studies. She is very grateful and knows she has a purpose in life. She is 14 now, and I am amazed that after everything she has been through she is still striving to become the best person she can be. Her circumstances, though tragic and difficult, are not dragging her down. Though I have never met her, I love her so much!

Earlier this year, Karis sent a birthday card and photo of herself with her dog to her sponsored child in China.
Earlier this year, Karis sent a birthday card and photo of herself with her dog to her sponsored child in China.

My hope and prayer for her is that she will continue to gain strength, that she will reach her goals, and that blessings beyond what she could imagine will flood her life. She is a true inspiration to me, and I am extremely blessed that God put her in my life. That one act of picking up her card three years ago was one of the best decisions I have made in my life.

Karis Feezell | Pikeville, TN

View Karis’ online gallery, Ashes 2 Beauty Artistry, at

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