Back in the Saddle

Luke Christie once again takes the reins as MDA National Goodwill Ambassador

by Kathy Wechsler on January 1, 2007 - 3:07pm

QUEST Vol. 14, No. 1

Wow! What a year for Luke Christie of Due West, S.C.! Since his nationwide introduction on the 2005 Jerry Lewis Labor Day Telethon, Luke, 13, has captured the hearts of millions of Americans while serving as MDA's National Goodwill Ambassador.

Throughout 2006, Luke, who has type 2 spinal muscular atrophy and uses a power wheelchair, traveled the country representing families served by MDA at sponsor, media and fund-raising events and in MDA promotional materials.

He's now starting his second term in the national ambassador role.

Luke Christie and Blanco
While at the South Point Hotel in Las Vegas for the 2006 MDA Telethon, Luke visits the Equestrian Center and meets Blanco, the horse from "Lord of the Rings." Photo by Christine George/2006

Places to go, people to see

"I've had such a wonderful year. I don't think that's totally because I'm getting to see all these new places, although that's great," said Luke, an eighth-grader at Dixie High School. "I think it's primarily because of all the great people I've met through MDA — MDA sponsors and friends."

Luke's most memorable MDA sponsor event in his first term was a visit to CITGO's Houston headquarters in May. There, the articulate youngster got to thank the company for its support of MDA and meet CITGO President Felix Rodriguez and other executives. As part of the meeting, CITGO arranged for Luke to meet key players of the Houston Astros, of which CITGO is a sponsor.

That evening was CITGO Employee Night at the Minute Maid Park with the Astros playing the Colorado Rockies. Besides the excitement of his first visit to a major league baseball stadium, Luke got to throw a ceremonial pitch. (Read more about CITGO.)

At the Harley-Davidson Summer Dealers Meeting in San Diego in July, Luke attended the welcome reception, worked the MDA booth, signed autographs and met key Harley-Davidson people. At the meeting, Luke was presented with a genuine Harley-Davidson leather jacket, which was later signed by meeting attendees. The company then framed the jacket in a shadowbox and mailed it to Luke.

"I can look at [the jacket] and see how much support is shown by Harley-Davidson through all of these different rides," said Luke, referring to the dozens of events held by Harley-Davidson dealerships and riders to raise funds for MDA.

While on the West Coast, Luke appeared on "Love Network" station KUSI's "Good Morning San Diego" and discussed his role as MDA National Goodwill Ambassador and the upcoming Jerry Lewis Labor Day Telethon.

And what trip to San Diego would be complete without a visit to Sea World?

Luke also expressed thanks on behalf of families served by MDA at meetings of the International Association of Fire Fighters (IAFF), the National Association of Letter Carriers (NALC), the National Child Care Association (NCCA) and ERA Real Estate.

The grand finale

On Labor Day weekend 2006, Luke made his second appearance on the national broadcast of the MDA Telethon. Still pumped up from the spectacular event a few weeks afterwards, Luke described his favorite part of the show — the first hour.

"Five seconds before it starts is so exciting," Luke said. "You see the lights go down in the studio and the video of Jerry Lewis with the Las Vegas Philharmonic, and everybody is just awed. And then all of a sudden you've got Telethon right there."

For Luke, each Telethon is like celebrating another birthday.

"If I've lived to see another Telethon, that means that I'm alive another year," he said.

Luke loves to see Telethon reports on how much has been accomplished in the past year, starting with the presentation of checks by MDA sponsors and the climbing tote board. It's also very satisfying to hear about the research progress that results from those donations, he said.

It was during the 2006 broadcast that Lewis announced that Luke would serve as MDA National Goodwill Ambassador for 2007.

"This year's Telethon was nine times better [than last year's] because I knew what to do and say," Luke said of his appearances, along with his family, on the national broadcast.

"I wasn't sad, because I knew that I would have another year [as National Goodwill Ambassador], and I was just gonna get up there and give it all I've got."

A full plate

Even though he's a "subfreshman," Luke enjoys the freedom associated with high school.

"There's so many clubs and places where you can find your way. I found the newspaper," he said.

As a writer for The Hornet, Luke is in charge of a monthly student interview and a student survey on such vital topics as, "Which do you prefer: crunchy or creamy peanut butter?" His goal is to be editor of the school newspaper when he's a senior.

Luke's still leaning toward a career in journalism, but he's uncertain whether print or broadcast is right for him.

A First Class Scout in the Boy Scouts, Luke hopes to become an Eagle Scout like his older brothers, Parker and Spencer. The troop keeps Luke busy with hiking and camping trips and selling popcorn as a fund-raiser. He's also finishing his personal management merit badge.

Even with Boy Scouts and the school newspaper, Luke still finds time to be involved with community theater, and, of course, to represent MDA whenever he's asked.

"I've become a better person because I see all of these people with wonderful hearts, and I've learned that the spirit is out there. The hope is out there," said Luke, who sharpened his public speaking skills during his MDA appearances last year.

"When I look at these people, I just smile and there's nothing I can say or do that's gonna change the way they feel, and that is just heartwarming."

With apprearances already slated in North Carolina, Las Vegas and Nashville, Luke is ready for his second great ride.

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