LOMA LINDA – Abbey Umali does not care if she comes in last place.
The 9-year-old girl is just happy to compete in the sixth annual PossAbilities Triathlon today at Loma Linda University.
Abbey – who has a rare form of muscular dystrophy – will compete against other able-bodied athletes in her age group.
“First, we run, then we bike, then we swim,” said Abbey, the Muscular Dystrophy Association’s 2008 National Goodwill Ambassador. “It’s really fun.”
According to the university, PossAbilities is a community outreach program developed by the Loma Linda University Orthopaedic and Rehabilitation Institute. Its goal is to offer people with disabilities who were born with or have suffered a permanent physical injury a sense of community and provide activities and practical help to integrate them into society.
When she was 2 years old, Abbey was diagnosed with a form of Charcot- Marie-Tooth disease, characterized by lack of balance and coordination as well as muscle weakness.
Abbey walks with the aid of leg braces.
But the third-grader at Montessori in Redlands does not feel sorry for herself.
Abbey loves to read, sing, play the piano and visit libraries, bookstores and animal parks. When she grows up, Abbey wants to be a veterinarian.
As ambassador, she travels through the United States and represents families that are affected by neuromuscular diseases and participates in Muscular Dystrophy Association events.
Today, Abbey will be competing in her third triathlon.
“She was born with a lot of determination,” said Wendi Umali, Abbey’s mother. “She doesn’t let anything get her down. Anything she wants to do, she just goes after it.”
To cheer her on
The sixth annual PossAbilities Triathlon is at 7 a.m. today at Drayson Center on the Loma Linda University campus, 25040 Stewart St.