TSB Community Contributor
When Madison Blumenthal first learned that her mom, Susan, had been afflicted with multiple sclerosis (MS), she was at a complete loss of what to do, what to say or even what to think.
“Madi,” as the 11th-grader is known around campus at McKinney North High School, has always enjoyed the kind of special bond that girls have with their moms. But hearing about Susan’s illness two years ago stopped her in her tracks. With a natural get-up-and-go kind of outlook, Madi’s instincts were kicked into high gear. But still, shortly after her diagnosis, Madi had yet to hit upon an answer to the lingering question of what to do.
Susan and Madi are similar in many ways, although to look at them side-by-side, you might be hard-pressed to see a resemblance. Madi is tall, slim and has a seriousness that belies her youth, while Susan is short, compact and has a ready, infectious laugh. Both, though, are committed to helping. Susan is one of the most active boosters in the Bulldog Athletic Clubs at North, currently serving as president of the Tennis Booster Club, a sport that both Madi and son Austin participate in.
She serves in many other capacities at the school, notably as chair of concessions for the sports program, often volunteering to fill in whenever there’s a vacancy. She demonstrates a selflessness that many see as a commitment to the success of programs in which her children and countless others participate in. There’s little that’s asked of her that she will not give, including constant care and attention to her elderly father who lives nearby.
Madi is also a giver, amassing hours of community service in projects that are either school-related or in the community. An active member of the North Student Council, Madi plays tennis and eagerly looks for ways to help. In fact, Madi has far surpassed the number of community service hours required for a “green cord,” the symbolic, outward expression of community service worn at graduation.
And, this year, Madi and her dad Brian, from whom Susan is divorced, hit on a way to turn that sense of giving into something meaningful for Susan.
Madi made a commitment to ride in the 2013 MS Society Sam’s Club Roundup Ride, which is a grueling, two-day, 150-mile ride that starts in Frisco and winds its way through a number of cities and towns in North Texas, eventually finishing up in Fort Worth.
One problem. Madi hadn’t ridden a bike in almost eight years. So, last February, in preparation for the May ride, she started riding her bike and soliciting monetary pledges. The money would be donated to the National MS Society in the name of Susan.
The Society raises funds to underwrite research and client services, and while there is no cure for the disease, scientific research funded by the National MS Society is making inroads into the malady’s causes, effects and treatment.
So, Madi and Brian initiated a two-pronged approach, she riding, and he helping develop a plan for the fund-raising. Madi’s calls to friends, family, associates, team members, school chums and others through social media began to bear fruit. Brian was also making progress on the pledges. But the bike-riding was an issue. The time it takes to seriously train for such a ride can be overwhelming, cutting deeply into study and social time.
In addition, Madi herself was dealing with a health-related issue. As a sprouting teen, Madi was experiencing growth spurts that left her with bothersome aches and pains in her bones and muscles. Enter Dr. Kelly Ryder of Texas Sports ChiroCare. Dr. Ryder, a nationally-known chiropractor who’s regularly sought out by professional athletes and trainers, gave Madi some exercises and stretches that would help ease the growing pains, all the while keeping a close eye on her developing muscular structure. After carefully assessing the situation, Dr. Ryder gave Madi the clearance to participate in the bike ride.
Dr. Ryder, incidentally, was the first medical professional to recognize the symptoms of MS in Susan, after she tried to get an accurate diagnosis from her physician. Armed with this knowledge, Susan pressed her regular doctor to test for MS, and true to Dr. Ryder’s suspicions, the MS was indeed diagnosed.
But Madi still had little free time to train. Then, she hit on a way to combine her training with the other activities required by school and her teenage friends. She installed a bicycle stand in her room that allowed her to ride for as long as she wanted while still reading, studying, doing homework and conducting other activities.
And it paid off. Determined to finish the race, and with cheers from Austin, support from Brian and clearance from Dr. Ryder, she eagerly anticipated the start. She set a goal of $1,000 and eventually upped it to $1,500 when she realized that pledges were coming in faster than she had anticipated.
With Brian’s help, she will surpass her goal, likely bringing in over $3,000. And for next year, Madi hopes to get a team together from North, either through Student Council or the tennis program.
With her history of determination, there’s little doubt that she’ll succeed.