For Marybeth Waltman, a positive attitude is what sees her through her day as a government employee, community volunteer and wife.
"I don't let anything defeat me," says Waltman, of Rocky Hill, Conn. "I get up in the morning and I know what I have to do."
Waltman, who works as a claims representative for the Social Security Administration in Hartford, has been affected by spinal muscular atrophy since age 3. Now, at 39, she uses a power wheelchair for mobility and a ventilator part-time to assist with breathing.
Waltman says she makes sure she gets a lot of rest at night so she is revitalized in the morning. She attributes her busy pace and her positive attitude to her family.
Surrounded by love
"I'm surrounded by positive people and a lot of love," says Waltman, who lives with her husband, Jim, and her parents, Amy and Vincent Uricchio. "It makes everything so much easier. If I can go to work every day and come home smiling, then I've achieved my goal for the day."
Among her many successes, Waltman was selected to receive MDA's 1999 National Personal Achievement Award. The award, which recognizes the accomplishments and community service of individuals affected by neuromuscular diseases, was announced on the 1999 Jerry Lewis MDA Telethon. Waltman was chosen for the national honor from among statewide winners across the country.
At Social Security, where she's worked since 1983, Waltman helps elderly clients and people with disabilities understand the programs and processes of the agency. She's aided on the job by a personal assistant and by her black Labrador service dog, Sable.
In all her activities, Waltman demonstrates confidence and drive, qualities she learned early in life.
Guided by goals
"I was always encouraged to work hard to attain the goals I had set for myself," Waltman said. "My school years were very rewarding for me because it was during these times that I was confronted with many obstacles and challenges which tested my perseverance and determination."
Meeting those challenges enabled her to become the first wheelchair-dependent student to graduate from Saint Joseph College in West Hartford, where she earned a bachelor's degree in political science.
Along with overcoming obstacles, goal-setting has been a theme of Waltman's life. An important lifelong goal is to help others, a dream she's fulfilled not only through her job but also by her longtime volunteer leadership of organizations and programs that assist people with disabilities.
Waltman serves on the board of directors for East Coast Assistance Dogs and is a member of the State Rehabilitation Council. She's a volunteer spokeswoman for the Hospital for Special Care in New Britain and for the University of Connecticut Medical Center in Farmington.
Much of Waltman's time and energy are also devoted to MDA. Her volunteer service began early, with her four-year stint as the Association's Goodwill Ambassador for Connecticut from 1969 through 1973. More recently she's shared her story on the local broadcast of the Telethon, and she serves as a member of MDA's Northern Connecticut Task Force on Public Awareness.
Waltman attended MDA summer camps for eight years as a child and teen-ager. At the 1976 camp session, she met her husband, then a volunteer camp counselor. The couple has been married for 17 years.Waltman emphasizes to others served by MDA that living with a neuromuscular disease can be positive.
"As a crusader for the disabled, I will continue educating and assisting other individuals with disabilities and society," Waltman said. "I will advocate that living with a chronic disease can be rewarding and fulfilling, if you have the optimism and determination to achieve your dreams and goals."