Board Member at Large
It may be hard to believe that Virginia Harrison is thankful to have PKU in her life. But the young adult from Flourtown, PA, thinks that she may not be as successful as she is today without its influence. "I would not have the same sense of responsibility, discipline, work ethic, and self-confidence that I have today if I didn't have PKU," she says. "I learned these values through staying on a strict diet and understanding the consequences if I didn't. I have never tried to hide my PKU from anyone. I have always embraced PKU and felt that it made me unique rather than different."
Virginia joined the MACPAD Board of Directors in October 2009. This is her first real volunteer experience in PKU research and fundraising. She graduated with two degrees, one in journalism and the other in history, from The Pennsylvania State University Schreyer Honors College in 2008. After accepting an internship with Penn State's Office of Development Communications in State College, PA, she was officially hired in the same office in 2009. Her first full-time job mixes her passion for writing with her interest in helping others through fundraising in higher education. She hopes to learn many new writing and fundraising skills that she can bring to the PKU community by volunteering with MACPAD.
It wasn't until college graduation that Virginia considered making nonprofit work a career. A high school athlete in both soccer and basketball, Virginia wanted to pursue sports journalism in college. She spent every college semester on the sports staff at The Daily Collegian, Penn State's student newspaper, as a writer and editor, serving as head sports editor her final semester. However, reflecting on her college career made her realize how important PKU has been in her life. "PKU was never a burden for me, but simply another facet of life," she says. "Of course at times it was frustrating, but I know I can handle anything that life throws at me because I have been able to handle PKU. I want to give back to the PKU community and help others who don't view PKU so positively."
Behind her success also comes a vital support system. Her mom, Sue, has always cooked and baked exceptional low protein foods like veggie burgers, pizzas, birthday cakes, and much more, while her dad, John, has adopted some of his favorite recipes - gumbo and jambalaya - for PKU diets. Thanks to her parents, cooking and baking is now one of Virginia's favorite activities. Her brother, John, also has PKU and has found his own success with the diet. He is the starting quarterback for the Franklin & Marshall's football team, and he has already broken several school and Centennial Conference passing records. Her family and friends have been an important influence in building her confidence.
"PKU has shaped me in so many ways," she says. "If you view PKU in a negative light, it will become a limitation. If you view it positively, you can make the most of its influence in your life."