With a crowd of onlookers to cheer her on and the help of her therapist and braces, 8-year-old Madelyne Williams walked across the finish line of the Cleveland Triathlon.
Madelyne, who has cerebral palsy, was the inspiration for two triathlon teams made up of staff and their family members from the Kent office of Akron Children’s Hospital Pediatrics (ACHP) and the NeuroDevelopmental Science Center (NDSC).
“People were cheering as she crossed the finish line,” said Dr. M. Cristina Victorio, a pediatric neurologist at NDSC. “It is very touching to watch. I still get teary eyed every year I see her do that.”
“We were all there to cheer her on,” Carole Mantz, CNP, said. “It gives me chills just thinking about it.”
Akron Children’s NDSC team has been competing for 3 years after Madelyne’s mother, Wendy, made the suggestion of forming a team in Madelyne’s honor.
Drs. Victorio and Suneet Sahgal, as well as registered nurse Kathy Duritza competed as the runner, swimmer, and cyclist, respectively.
This year, a second group was added to the team. Mantz, her husband, Steve Conti, and the husband of a licensed practical nurse in the office, Ryan Laatsch, formed the new addition. Mantz ran, Conti cycled and Laatsch swam. This group competed in the super sprint, an abbreviated version of the triathlon.
Both groups placed in the race.
Mantz, Conti and Laatsch placed first in their race bracket. Duritza and Drs. Sahgal and Victorio placed seventh two years ago and fourth last year.
Despite their athleticism, the team members aren’t in it for the competition. They participate because the triathlon is fun and, more importantly, to show their support of Madelyne and others with CP.
“It’s our way to show that we are not here only for medical needs, but also to show that we care,” said Dr. Victorio. “We would like to give CP patients the opportunity to do things that may be quite difficult to achieve, such as this race.”