January marks new beginnings, and here at MDA we have plenty.
First of course is the beginning term of new MDA National Goodwill Ambassador Abbey Umali. In accepting this role, Abbey and her parents, Joel and Wendi, knew they had some pretty big shoes to fill. Historically, MDA goodwill ambassadors and their families are a remarkable group: dedicated, hard-working, upbeat, friendly, focused, patient, creative, articulate and more. The talented young people who have filled this role just in this century include Luke Christie (2007, 2006), Morgan Fritz (2005), Mattie Stepanek (2004, 2003, 2002), Sarah Schwegel (2001) and Lauren Carter (2000).
Abbey, with her megawatt smile and graceful charm, is a natural successor to this lineage. As you’ll learn in the profile about Abbey, in her short life she’s already served as MDA state goodwill ambassador for California and clearly understands the important job of thanking volunteers and sponsors for their support and telling the story of MDA’s lifesaving mission.
One ending marks another beginning. After completing two years as National Goodwill Ambassador, 14-year-old Luke Christie was ready for a new challenge, and the one he got comes with plenty of horsepower. Thanks to MDA National Vice President Jim McCaslin, who is the president and COO of Harley-Davidson Motor Company, we’ll continue to have Luke working with us. Jim has asked Luke to serve as the 2008 MDA/Harley-Davidson Goodwill Ambassador and assist the company’s 105th anniversary efforts in behalf of the Association.
In 2008, expect to hear exciting things about potential treatments for several of the diseases in MDA’s program, including (but not limited to) Duchenne muscular dystrophy, spinal muscular atrophy and ALS. Technology, new understandings of disease mechanisms and a solid foundation of basic scientific research have led MDA’s research program to focus on moving promising findings “from bench to bedside” — out of the laboratory and into clinical trials, where their true effectiveness can be measured. Read more about MDA’s research strategies in this issue.
Also new in 2008 is an MDA Advocacy office in Washington, D.C., designed to increase our influence on matters affecting neuromuscular disease research or individuals coping with these diseases. The new office will be staffed by Annie Kennedy, former director of the MDA ALS Division.
Yes, we’re excited about the challenges and rewards of the year ahead. Bit by bit, working together, we’re achieving a miracle. May the coming year bring you your own satisfying set of challenges and rewards, and move you closer to your heart’s desire.
With every best wish,
Gerald C. Weinberg
President & CEO