Reagan, 8, is the daughter of Jenny and Joe Imhoff of New Berlin, Wis.
May 11, 2005
Reagan has spinal muscular atrophy (SMA Type II), a genetic disease affecting the part of the nervous system that controls voluntary muscle movement. SMA Type II is a progressive neuromuscular disease most commonly diagnosed in infancy. The biggest potential problems in SMA are respiratory muscle weakness, swallowing muscle weakness, and back muscle weakness with progressive spinal curvature.
Reagan is a charming, happy and outgoing third-grader who enjoys art, social studies and recess.
Reagan loves reading, dancing, drawing, swimming, traveling, musicals and going to MDA summer camp. She takes dance lessons, attends art class and loves spending time with her family and friends. Reagan dreams of being an artist, a dancer and a nurse.
Beautiful and talented, Reagan served three terms as MDA’s Wisconsin State Goodwill Ambassador and brightened each day for everyone she met. She and her parents traveled throughout the state attending numerous events and admirably representing MDA.
In 2012, Reagan lived out one of her dreams when she starred in a moving dance performance done from her power wheelchair; the segment was a highlight of that year’s MDA Show of Strength Telethon. During the 2013 broadcast, Americans got the chance to meet Reagan and her parents on a more personal level through a profile of the family. During the show, Reagan was surprised with a very special gift of ballet pointe shoes from her friend, pop icon Paula Abdul.
Reagan also created “Fairy of Hope” specifically for the MDA Art Collection. Her colorful and bright artwork features a happy and beautiful fairy dressed in pink flying over three of Reagan’s friends — Bryson, Abbey and Ryder — as well as Reagan. According to Reagan, “The Fairy of Hope brings happiness and hope to children with muscle disease. In the picture, we’re all having fun together, playing sports, drawing, juggling and dancing. I drew the Fairy of Hope to look just like me because I love helping my MDA friends, and we can all be fairies of hope!”
Beginning in 1952, when public awareness and understanding of muscle disease were almost non-existent, MDA put a human face on its mission by calling upon young people affected by these diseases to serve as National Goodwill Ambassadors, telling their personal stories and inspiring support of MDA.
To date, the program has had 39 such ambassadors, boys and girls affected by a variety of neuromuscular disorders, who have traveled the nation to meet with sponsors, supporters and luminaries including U.S. Presidents such as John F. Kennedy and Ronald Reagan. They’ve also appeared on MDA’s Telethons -- often with longtime Telethon Host Jerry Lewis – and other forums such as "Larry King Live," "Oprah," "Today," and "Good Morning America." Ambassadors have graced more than 15 covers of Parade magazine and served as guests of honor at Walt Disney World, Disneyland and the Rose Parade.
Today, MDA ambassadors continue to play an essential role in motivating millions to help MDA through donations or volunteer action. Former ambassadors have grown up to achieve distinction, earning advanced degrees and making their marks as published authors, popular musicians and artists and successful business professionals. Many continue in volunteer roles for MDA, serving on various committees on public awareness and appearing at large events to tell MDA’s story of progress.