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Grandma wins big for losing

Contest results in $10,000 for sick granddaughter

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If a plastic tiara and star wand and a pink cape with fur is a tribute to a grandmother's love, this little 3-year-old has it in spades.

Ryley Johnson was Princess for the Day at the Home Remodeling and Decorating Show Friday. Karen Price took her granddaughter Ryley and family to the show where she thought they were just going to pick up a little can of money for Ryley at the E'OLA booth.

Little did Price know that E'OLA and Win10K.com organizers were waiting to surprise Price with a $10,000 check and a box of princess accessories for Ryley.

Price may have earned the prize money from a weight-loss contest she entered, but the check isn't just for her. From the time she entered the contest, Price has wanted only one thing: to help her granddaughter realize she's not alone. Ryley was born with a rare skin disease called Ichthyosis.

It all started in 1994. Price was 304 pounds. She had tried everything to lose weight and became skeptical. After using E'OLA products and exercising she was able to lose 165 pounds and keep it off for six years.

The fact that she's kept it off for as long as she has is quite amazing, Scott Pullan, media relations for Win10K.com said. Twenty dress sizes smaller, Price is now a distributor for the product.

"I thought my story was old news, so to speak," Price said. But friends nudged her to enter the Win10K.com weight loss contest. The criteria was actual weight loss, use of E'OLA, and an essay.

In the essay Price said if she was to win the money she would use it to take her granddaughter and family to a First Foundation convention in Seattle, where they could learn more about Ichthyosis and Ryley could receive support.

"She's never met anyone with this skin condition," Price said.

One in 350,000 people have the disease. Doctors are still learning about it, which makes knowing others with it all the more valuable.

Price could probably write the book on Ichthyosis — it's been her focus ever since Ryley was born. She knows the names of the different types of the diseases by heart, one of them about an inch long. She's also up-to-date on all the best remedies and creams out there to help ease the pain.

"She has to exfoliate, moisturize and put on a moisture-holding lotion three times a day," Price said. When Ryley was a baby, her mom, Shauna, said she had to apply lotion every three hours.

As a result of the disease, Ryley's skin is so tight, she can't close her eyes all the way, so salve must be applied at bedtime. Ryley doesn't have fingerprints. She is also more susceptible to infection and during the wintertime the skin especially on the hands and feet become very cracked. Through it all, Price said her granddaughter never complains.

"She's like an angel." However, Ryley starting to realize she's a little different than other children, Price said. In a self-portrait, she colored her face red.

Ryley's older sister, Alexis, 5, is her best friend. She will tell people about her sister's skin disease from the get-go. Their mother couldn't be more proud.

"I'd rather have people ask about it instead of just staring," Shauna said. "But it doesn't get to her as much as me."

Shauna admits she was in denial about the rare disease when Ryley was born. She thought it would just go away. But Ryley will be stuck with it the rest of her life.

"I had to face it. It was a good thing my mom was around," Shauna said.

And as long as Price continues to stand by her granddaughter, Ryley will always feel like a princess.

"I get to see kids like me," Ryley said.

E-mail: ckennington@desnews.com