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Briarcliff Student Shows 'Differences Are Blessings'

Alena Galan holding up her new book "Differences Are Blessings."
Alena Galan holding up her new book "Differences Are Blessings." Photo Credit: Sam Barron

BRIARCLIFF MANOR, N.Y. -- Briarcliff High School junior Alena Galan has overcome many obstacles and is lucky to be alive.

The 17-year-old Galan is now the author of the new children's book, "Differences Are Blessings."

Seven weeks after she was adopted from Siberia in 2001 at three years old, Galan was diagnosed with Maroteaux-Lamy syndrome, an enzyme deficiency. In 2005, Galan became the first patient in the Northeast to get an enzyme replaced.

"If I didn't get the enzyme replaced, I wouldn't be here," Galan said. "I'm lucky this miracle happened."

Galan now gets treatment once a week for four hours. Despite her disease, Galan lives a full life. She sings and takes lessons at Mike Risko Music School and acts with Random Farms. She also lectures at Einstein Medical School.

The junior also works with the Children's Miracle Network and has wowed people with her performances of Miley Cyrus' "The Climb", Galan's "signature song."

"It's about how to keep moving on despite your struggles," Galan said.

"Differences Are Blessings" teaches people that it's okay to be different and to be empowered and against bullying. The main character is a giraffe who no one notices until a parrot gets stuck in a tree and soon people realize she does matter.

"Even though the little things are different, everyone is unique in just the way you are," Galan said. "Life is a special occasion."

Galan wrote the book for her Gold Award project for Girl Scouts and has been reading the book at hospitals to spread the word.

"I think this will really help send a message to young kids," she said. "Even adults have read it and enjoyed it."

Galan said she has always dressed her own way and thought outside of the box.

"It was hard growing up," Galan said. "Everyone is the same, so being different is hard. My mom has always brought me up to defend myself and to make sure I can advocate for myself and not get crushed."

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