LIGHTS ON: Caitlyn Donohoe, pictured with friend Katelyn Ninness, helped to turn on the Christmas lights   at the Biloela Christmas Festival. Turn to page 11 for photos of the festival.
LIGHTS ON: Caitlyn Donohoe, pictured with friend Katelyn Ninness, helped to turn on the Christmas lights at the Biloela Christmas Festival. Turn to page 11 for photos of the festival. Contributed

Shining star lights Christmas up

CAITLYN Donohoe switched on the festive lights for the Biloela Christmas Festival and helped to light up the hearts of the people who were there.

The high school graduate has an outstanding commitment to her community and was chosen as this year's local to turn on the lights at the Lions Park Christmas celebration.

She also led the crowd in counting down to the big moment.

The Biloela High School graduate was born with a rare muscle condition called Arthrogryposis, a congenital joint contracture in two or more areas of the body.

Caitlyn, who has been an inspirational member of the community, believes "knowledge is power” and this motivates her to reduce the stigma often surrounding physical disabilities.

"A lot of discrimination comes from misunderstand- ing and I like to make it clear as possible and destigmatise it,” Caitlyn said.

"It's just facts in the same way that I'm 17 years old and have brown hair.”

Caitlyn is unable to move her hands above her head and likes to talk about issues surrounding living with a physical disability.

Despite all these challenges, Caitlyn has been busy at various functions speaking out to raise awareness.

In Aprils she was a state finalist in Lions Youth of the Year competition for high school students and won the public speaking component.

Several months ago, participated in Queensland Youth Parliament in Brisbane as the representative for Burnett and taking on the role of Opposition Leader.

"We had been making Bills and got to debate them in that week and I met lots of like-minded young people,” Caitlyn said.

Now that school has finished and the community embraces the festive spirit, Caitlyn said Christmas was a special time of year in rural areas that united locals.

Especially during tough times such as the current drought.

"In rural communities it can be easier for people to feel isolated and Christmas brings people together to celebrate and be jovial together which is super important,” Caitlyn said.

Next year will be a busy one with Caitlyn planning to study law and arts at University of Queensland with the hopes of one day being a human rights lawyer.


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