Meet Kristen Antolini, Esq.
with her parents, Martha and Joe, following the swearing-in ceremony to the
With an eye toward a career in public service one day, and a host of impressive accomplishments already behind her, it’s not difficult to ascribe adjectives such as passionate and determined to 28 year-old Kristen Antolini.
Kristen was clinically diagnosed with osteogenesis imperfecta in 1984 after an unexplained femur fracture at six months old. Her parents were fortunate to have had an on-call orthopedist that recognized symptoms of the disorder, having treated children with OI at Children’s Rehabilitation Center in Charlottesville, VA some 30 years before. But beyond the diagnosis and a prognosis that she would probably neither grow normally nor walk, little information or support was available at the time.
A single paragraph on osteogenesis imperfecta at the hospital’s medical library was the only information her mother was able to find. It was an informed nursing student, who was interning at the Salem, VA hospital at the time, who eventually led them to the resources at the OI Foundation.
During her first six years, Kristen had never met anyone with the disorder except one other child. Accompanying her parents to the OI Foundation's 6th biennial National Conference on OI in 1990, not only introduced her to a wider OI community, but helped shape her thinking about OI and form goals for her future.
“It was kind of an overwhelming experience as a six year-old who had always been in and out of the hospital with femur fractures to meet all of these amazing adults living and thriving with OI,” she recalls. “I remember thinking that I could do great things, too, and be successful. I remember being really inspired.”
Despite a period where she endured five major femur fractures which required multi-week hospital stays in traction followed by times in Spica (body) casts, and some 30 fractures in all, little has stood in the way of Kristen’s passion and determination in achieving those goals.
Music became her childhood focus when she was unable to participate in athletics as a young girl. She began to play piano at the age of five and join the Roanoke College Children’s Choir.
“In fact, I never remember a time when I wasn’t singing,” she says.
That passion and talent eventually led to a full scholarship in voice to West Virginia University (WVU) where she majored in both vocal performance and political science. In between her studies, Kristen was also a national finalist for the prestigious Rhodes scholarship competition.
As an undergraduate she had an opportunity to see politics in action as an intern at the state capital. That early experience only strengthened her desire to serve one day in the public arena.
She traveled throughout Europe with the university choir, and continues to sing today. She is often asked to perform at local sports event, weddings and funerals. Kristen also serves as the music director for a Newman Center at a local college.
Law school at WVU followed, and last year Kristen joined the West Virginia law firm of Shuman, McCuskey & Slicer in 2011 as an associate, where her practice focuses primarily on insurance-related matters.
In fact, law is an excellent field for persons with OI to pursue, she believes.
“I’ve been an advocate for myself for most of my life, so it seemed like a natural progression to advocate for others.”
Her commitment to OI awareness is also a priority in her life—one that was fostered early on by her parents, Joe and Martha Antolini.
The Antolini family established the Annual Kroger OI Foundation Charity Golf Tournament and Auction in 1984 as a way to raise awareness of the disorder and to give back to the Foundation. The 25th annual event raised nearly $68,000 last year, and has raised more than $2 million for OI research since 1987.
“I knew as a child that I wanted to be involved with the Foundation because of all the great things it does to support OI research and awareness,” she said. “I am passionate about doing my part in supporting the OI community to increase awareness and support. It’s an on-going effort.”
Kristen followed her father’s footsteps when she was elected to serve on the OI Foundation Board last year.
For Kristen, staying active also means staying physically active. She made a commitment as a young woman to keep her bones strong and healthy by regular exercise. Two to three times a week she either swims, bikes or lifts weights. Her workout routines generally last more than an hour, although that wasn’t always the case.
“When I began, I could only workout for maybe five minutes at a time. Adding a minute to my time was a goal each time I began a new session. I know it’s helped and made and made a huge difference in my life, because I know how I feel if I don’t exercise.”
Kristen walks with the help of leg braces. Her last fracture was ten years ago. Her spirit remains unbreakable.
Passionate and determined, Kristen continues to pursue her goals. If you see her name on a ballot one day, you’ll know she has accomplished another one.