ISHPEMING — A little girl in the Upper Peninsula has won a big prize, and with the help of the community, she’s working toward claiming it.

“It was the first day of school,” said Elizabeth Holkko, mother of Maddie Vorase. “I dropped Maddie off at Lakeview and her principal said ‘oh, Maddie won a contest!’ I’m like, ‘really? What kind of contest?'”

Seven-year old Lakeview student Maddie Vorase recently won first place in a nationwide self-portrait contest that featured 300 competitors. While she’s already an accomplished young artist, Maddie has been blind since birth due to a condition called optic nerve hypoplasia.

“Basically, her main optic nerve on her eye didn’t fully attach to the brain,” said Holkko.

Maddie will be making the long trip to the American Printing House for the Blind in Louisville, Kentucky in order to claim her prize.

“At first I was like, ‘oh wow, that’s pretty far away,” said Holkko. “It only gives me three weeks, and she said she really wanted to go, and I couldn’t tell her no.”

To help fund the trip, Maddie’s aunt started a GoFundMe campaign online.

In addition to swimming in the hotel pool, Maddie is looking forward to a big first on the trip.

“The plane,” said Maddie.

“It’ll be her first plane ride,” added Holkko. “She’s amazing. There’s nothing she cannot do. The sky’s the limit for this one.”

Click here to visit the GoFundMe page, or here to visit the “Send Maddie to Louisville Kentucky” Facebook page.

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