Girl gives up birthday presents, raises $1 million to help others

Leigh Dittman didn’t want birthday presents, she wanted donations instead.

The 15-year-old from Lutz, Florida wanted to help children at the Shriner’s Hospital in Tampa by raising money. It was her way of giving back to children just like her.

We here at News Channel 8 have watched Leigh grow up at Bucs’ games and at official events, posing with former Tampa Bay Rays player David Price and Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn.

On Tuesday, we caught up with her for yet another historic milestone: raising $1 million dollars for the hospital that helped her as a child.

With her powerful personality and infectious smile, she’s paying it forward and has been on that mission ever since she was 3.

One look at Leigh and you might say she’s your typical teen.  She’s a sophomore at Gaither High School, a member of the National Honor Society, and she loves playing the violin.  There’s just one difference.  Leigh has, in layman’s terms, a brittle bone disease in which her bones can break very easily, and they have.

She’s had 40 broken bones and more than a dozen surgeries at Shriner’s Hospital Tampa where she’s received treatment most of her life.

When Leigh turned 3, people asked her what she wanted for her birthday. Instead of gifts, she was quick to say that she wanted people to donate money to the hospital, and ever since, it’s become an annual tradition.

Four years later and once again, another question.  How much money did she want to raise?  Her answer: $1,000,000.

She’s a fighter. She’s never given up and for this milestone, it’s a simple idea that will now help countless others in their time of need.

Meantime, Leigh still comes to Shriner’s for treatment every six months as her road to recovery continues.  Her family credits their faith for staying strong through so many trying times.

Once Leigh graduated from Gaither, she wants to go to nursing school. Where else does she want to help others?  Shriner’s Hospital of Tampa.

Before this, Leigh was honored earlier this year by the Hillsborough County School District for her contributions to the hospital and was the 2011 Tampa Bay Business Journal’s Healthcare Philanthropist of the Year.

The Tampa Bay Lightning named her one of its Community Heroes that same year. In addition to raising money for Shriners Hospitals for Children – Tampa, Leigh speaks to groups across the United States about her condition and the hospital. She also volunteers at Camp Care-A-Lot, the annual sleepaway summer camp for the Tampa hospital’s patients. Visit for more information.


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