WALES — Imagine having to wear a back brace for 21 hours every single day. Imagine trying to hide it at school and during soccer games because you don’t want anybody to know the truth: You have scoliosis.

For Halee Lair, that was her reality for almost two years.

But she doesn’t let it define her.

“We all have our own struggle, this is just mine,” she said.

Now entering her senior year at Oak Hill High School, Lair has organized a Scoliosis Awareness Run for her senior project.

“This is just something people need to know about,” she said.

In her sophomore year, she realized no one really knew what scoliosis was after a boy in her class was diagnosed.

“I had someone ask me, ‘Doesn’t scoliosis mean you’re skinny?’” she said.

Lair was diagnosed at the end of eighth grade, and had to enter high school wearing a back brace 21 hours a day, only taking it off to eat and shower. At the time, she was the only student in the whole school who had to wear one.

“Once I realized more people are being affected by it, I realized more people need to become aware of it,” she said. “I’ve been thinking about doing something with scoliosis, because I know a lot about it, but I wasn’t sure quite what to do. I thought a run would be a good way because our town is pretty athletic.”

Lair started planning a way to bring back screenings for scoliosis to the middle school, and most of the school system was supportive. But the screenings were not implemented.

Instead of abandoning the idea, Lair’s mother gave her the encouragement to bring it to the state level, to push for a bill to mandate screenings in middle schools.

“I’ve contacted my state representative, senator, and contacted the governor,” Lair explained. “I’m gonna try and make it a bill again. It was before, and then it was repealed in 2009.” 

Lair said most people think if they’re screened in sixth grade, they don’t need to another screening in eighth grade. They think if they didn’t find scoliosis the first time, it won’t be there later on. But Lair said that’s not the case.

Lair didn’t have it in seventh grade — but she did by the eighth grade.

“This is why I’m doing this project — I want screenings to be done in middle schools,” she said. “I know a boy who had a rare form of scoliosis, and if they hadn’t done the screenings, they wouldn’t have found that he had a brain tumor.” 

Scoliosis doesn’t just affect the back. With scoliosis, the spine doesn’t just turn, it twists at the same time, and it can be an S or a C shape.

Lair’s scoliosis affected her heart and breathing, because her heart could get twisted by her spine.

”If they hadn’t put me in a brace, I would have had heart problems,” she said.

Now that her growth plates are fully in place, she doesn’t have to wear the brace as much, but Lair will always have a crooked spine.

Despite the struggle, Lair said she thinks the scoliosis has affected her in a positive way.

“That’s not really a normal response,” she joked.

She said having to wear a brace gave her self-confidence and a better body image.

“Throughout time, it became, ‘Hey I have self-confidence now because of that, because I’ve dealt with that,’” she said.

“It makes you look at the bigger picture,” Lair said, “put yourself in other people’s shoes. What they’re going through could be completely different than what you’re going through — and you may not even know.”

The ScolioRun is scheduled for 9 a.m. Saturday, Aug. 13, at 235 Plains Road, Litchfield. For more information and to register, visit

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