Girl on a public health mission
School’s youngest donor supports Lyme research
Olivia Goodreau presents Dr. Ying Zhang with a $25,000 grant from her LivLyme Foundation
Budding scientist. Social entrepreneur. Lyme disease patient. Philanthropist. App developer. The youngest donor in Bloomberg School history. At age 13, Olivia Goodreau is all these things and more.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, as many as 350,000 Americans are diagnosed annually with Lyme disease, a vector-borne illness spread by ticks. When Olivia was six, she contracted Lyme disease but her family did not see the tick, nor did she develop the characteristic bullseye rash. As a second-grader, she began experiencing body aches, brain fog, headaches, a hand tremor, and blackouts. Her teacher and parents grew increasingly concerned and she soon could barely get out of bed.
Olivia experienced firsthand the difficulty of getting an accurate Lyme disease diagnosis. After visiting more than 50 doctors over 18 months and enduring a barrage of tests, she was finally diagnosed with Lyme disease and put on antibiotics. But the delay in treatment meant that, until a cure is discovered, Olivia will never be completely free of Lyme disease.
Fast Olivia facts:
- She loves art.
- She misses 38 school days each year because of Lyme, but she’s still a great student.
- She takes 86 pills a day to control Lyme disease and its symptoms.
- She’d love to enroll and do Lyme research at one of universities where her LivLyme Foundation has made a grant.
- The first and second LivLyme Gala events in 2017 and 2018 have raised more than $500,000 to support Lyme disease research and assist pediatric patients with the costs of treatment.
- In December 2017, Olivia spoke to the US Department of Health and Human Services Working Group on Tickborne Diseases.
- In February 2018, Olivia launched the TickTrack app to educate users and enable them to report and track ticks using geolocation. TickTrack is now available globally in multiple languages, and Olivia will share the data collected with scientists.
Liv in the Lymelight
As Olivia and her parents began to meet more other children with Lyme, she learned that many families couldn’t afford their medications. Others were living in their car so their child could see a doctor and get the necessary drugs. Olivia was deeply moved and wanted to do something to help.
At age 11, Olivia’s involvement with Lyme awareness activities quickly escalated from doing the Lyme Challenge to starting a Facebook page called Olivia and Lyme to speaking to 300 medical professionals at the invitation of Lyme specialist and advocate Dr. Richard Horowitz.
Olivia’s mother, Holiday Goodreau, says that she and her husband “have raised our kids to be very giving and get involved and do things for others,” including taking an active role in the family’s philanthropy to support early childhood learning and end homelessness in Colorado.
While helping her mother set tables before a fundraising gala, Olivia said, “Mom, you do all this great stuff for other people, I want to do something for Lyme disease. It will be called the LivLyme Foundation, because my name is Liv and I’m living with Lyme.” That was in January 2017.
Olivia identified her philanthropic goals: raise $10,000 to help children afford treatment and to support research for a cure. The first LiveLyme Gala raked in more than 20 times that modest goal.
When Olivia’s mother heard that Olivia had invited Dr. Horowitz to speak at her gala, “My jaw dropped, because we hadn’t talked about it or planned anything. So we got the foundation started and vowed to do it right, not just as a little side hobby.
Within three hours after the LiveLyme Foundation website went live, the first grant application was submitted.
“It was powerful and humbling,” Holiday remembers, “to read through the applications from 49 families in 22 states. Every family is struggling to help their child.”
Researching the researchers
To decide which scientists she wanted to support, Olivia scoured the web and found the very best researchers who were on a path to make progress against Lyme disease. She chose Lyme specialists at three universities, including Ying Zhang, MD, PhD in the Bloomberg School’s Department of Molecular Microbiology and Immunology, who is pursuing new treatments, vaccines, and diagnostic tests for Lyme disease.
In partnership with the Global Lyme Alliance, the LivLyme Foundation is supporting Dr. Zhang’s evaluation of the activity of essential oils and how they can enhance the power of antibiotics against Borrelia persisters and biofilms.
Olivia’s research didn’t stop at her computer screen. In November 2017, she visited Dr. Zhang’s lab at the Bloomberg School to witness the science of Lyme disease first hand.
“It was amazing, like something out of a movie!” she exclaimed. “I definitely want to come back. The coolest thing I got to see was the Lyme bacteria under the microscope.”
Olivia described Dr. Zhang as “super kind. We even Skyped!” He was a special guest at the April 2018 LivLyme Gala.
Many patients are suffering from post-treatment Lyme disease syndrome or PTLDS, a poorly understood condition with no cure. The support from the LivLyme Foundation will help us move closer to a cure.
—Ying Zhang, MD, PhD
When asked why she thinks people should give to support Lyme disease research, Olivia replied, “Everything helps! Your gift could mean that a child who has been suffering could feel much better.” We couldn’t have said it better.
Please join us in supporting the Bloomberg School’s new initiative to establish a Lyme Disease and Tick Institute dedicated to developing better methods to diagnose, cure and block transmission of Lyme disease.
For more information, please contact Heath Elliott, Associate Dean for External Affairs, at 410‑955‑5194.