Meredith Annan | Young Hero Award from Alabama Public Television

Meredith Annan

Robertsdale High School

Robertsdale, Alabama

Meredith’s story actually began before she was born—when her future mother was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis at the age of 18. The disease was brutal, quickly affecting all of her joints. Her mother became the first victim in what was to become a painful, family battle against this debilitating, chronic illness.

Tragically, Meredith’s grandfather died from encephalitis when she was only 4 years of age. He had been diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis six years prior and was taking an immunosuppressant drug for the disease which weakened his immune system, making him more susceptible to illness.

When Meredith turned 8, her grandmother was diagnosed with kidney cancer. Meredith and her mother cared for her grandmother for the last two years of her life. Her uncle and nominator, pharmacist Ray Hickman wrote, “Possessing a caring nature at this young age, Meredith stayed at my mother’s house during summer break, where she swept floors, fixed cereal and sandwiches, and played cards and watched television with my mother.” Meredith was devastated when her grandmother died, leaving a huge emptiness in her young heart.

Six months after her grandmother’s death, Meredith began experiencing pain and swelling in her own wrists, undoubtably triggered by the stress caused by the loss of her loved one. The doctors ran tests and, at the age of 11, Meredith became the youngest member of the family to receive the diagnosis of rheumatoid arthritis. This started her on a journey of costly injections and infusions of immunosuppressant medications, all requiring extensive lab work to monitor her blood counts and liver functions.

Meredith then encountered another obstacle. Her mother was diagnosed with polymyositis, another autoimmune disorder. This illness caused mass necrosis of her mother’s muscles, making her mom an invalid for months. Meredith had to assist her mother with daily tasks, such as bathing, feeding, and brushing her hair and teeth. Meredith and her brother handled the household chores—running errands, shopping for groceries, and cleaning.

None of this turmoil has stopped Meredith from living a productive, active life. She maintains a high GPA at Robertsdale High School. Her Uncle Ray wrote, “She has an incredible work ethic, as evidenced in her school work, community service, club participation and job dedication.”

While Meredith has faced challenges and experienced tragic losses, she has thrived despite chronic illnesses that have plagued her family for generations. For her determination in the face of physical adversity, Meredith is recognized by her school and our state as one of the 2017 Young Heroes of Alabama.

Young Hero Sponsors

The Young Heroes Program is made possible through the support of:

Derek Chen

Harris Trust


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These educational programs and services of Alabama Public Television made possible by the generous support of the following contributors:

Community Events & Engagement
  • Books-A-Million, Young Heroes
  • Blue Cross/Blue Shield of Alabama, Be My Neighbor Day/Young Heroes
  • Brookmont Capital Management, Young Heroes
  • C. W. Daniel Charitable Trust, Young Heroes
  • Medical Properties Trust, Young Heroes
  • Fred Rogers Productions/PNC, Be My Neighbor Day
  • WNET-CPB, Sesame Street in Communities
General Support
  • Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB)
  • Public Broadcasting Services (PBS)
Learning Adventures
  • Alabama Bicentennial Commission
  • Alabama Humanities Foundation
    a state program of the National Endowment for the Humanities
  • Alabama State Council on the Arts
    a state program of the National Endowment for the Arts
  • American Graduate
    a program of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting
  • Daniel Foundation of Alabama
  • Malone Family Foundation
  • Robert Meyer Foundation
  • Sybil Smith Foundation
  • Troy Univiersity
  • U.S. Space & Rocket Center
  • Wells Fargo Foundation
Media Library
  • Corporation for Public Broadcasting, American Graduate
  • Corporation for Public Broadcasting, American Graduate, Getting To Work
PBS Kids Programs
  • Alabama Department of Human Resources
  • Alabama Power Company
  • Books-A-Million
  • Children’s of Alabama
  • HEAL Alabama
  • Medical Properties Trust
  • U.S. Space & Rocket Center
Professional Development for Educators
  • Community Foundation of South Alabama, PBS KIDS EdCamp
  • Sybil Smith Foundation, PBS KIDS EdCamp
Workforce Development
  • CAWACO, Career Forward
  • Southeast Alabama Works, Career Forward

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