New Berlin 3rd-grader is 39th ambassador for historic awareness program started in 1952
CHICAGO, February 5, 2014 — The Muscular Dystrophy Association’s 2014 National Goodwill Ambassador is 8-year-old Wisconsin sensation Reagan Imhoff of New Berlin. The official announcement took place at Harley-Davidson Motor Company, an MDA national sponsor for the past 34 years, in Milwaukee on Wednesday, Feb. 5.
“MDA is honored to share Reagan Imhoff and her loving parents with the American public,” said MDA President and CEO Steven M. Derks. “We are deeply humbled they have agreed to share their story of strength, represent our families and inspire the community to support MDA’s lifesaving mission. We couldn’t think of a better venue to start Reagan’s year of building awareness and engagement than at Harley-Davidson’s headquarters in her hometown of Milwaukee.”
Reagan served three years as Wisconsin’s MDA State Goodwill Ambassador and is no stranger to the national stage. In 2012, Reagan lived out her dream when she starred in a moving dance performance, done from her power wheelchair, on the MDA Show of Strength Telethon. Last year, pop icon Paula Abdul surprised Reagan with her first pair of ballet pointe shoes after a performance of “I Hope You Dance” by country star Lee Ann Womack — a special highlight of the 2013 telethon.
Reagan is the only child of Joe and Jenny Imhoff. A happy and outgoing third-grader, Reagan enjoys reading, dancing, drawing, swimming and musicals. She is also a regular at MDA’s summer camp each year and loves sharing her favorite memories.
Diagnosed with type 2 spinal muscular atrophy (SMA) as an infant, Reagan now uses a power wheelchair and a feeding tube for nutritional supplementation. SMA 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 very aware of the challenges she faces as a person with SMA, but she handles everything with courage and grace and never misses an opportunity to tell her story, speak about the support she receives from MDA and enlist someone in our fight,” said Jenny Imhoff. “She was overjoyed when she was selected as the 2014 National Goodwill Ambassador, and we’re all looking forward to an amazing year.”
Throughout 2014, Reagan and her parents will travel the country representing individuals and families served by MDA, and speaking at national sponsor events, conferences and special MDA events. She also will appear in national public service announcements, promotional materials and media engagements. Reagan succeeds Bryson Foster, 13, a North Carolina native who served as MDA’s National Goodwill Ambassador in 2012 and 2013.
About MDA National Goodwill Ambassador Program
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.
The Muscular Dystrophy Association is the world’s leading nonprofit health agency dedicated to finding treatments and cures for muscular dystrophy, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) and other neuromuscular diseases. It does so by funding worldwide research; by providing comprehensive health care services and support to MDA families nationwide; and by rallying communities to fight back through advocacy, fundraising and local engagement. Visit mda.org and follow us at facebook.com/MDAnational and @MDAnews.
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