MDA Matters Spring 2010

by Quest Staff on March 31, 2010 - 3:22pm

QUEST Vol. 17, No. 2

Featured in this article: Three times is a charm for Ambassador Abbey * MDA's phone call routing system has changed * Famed neurologist receives top MDA honor * MDA summer camp is just around the corner

Abbey returns, part III

The delightful young lady who has served MDA so well as its National Goodwill Ambassador for two terms is returning to represent the Association again in 2010.

Abbey Umali, who turned 11 in March, is only the third ambassador in MDA history to be named to a third term. (The other two were Mattie J.T. Stepanek, 2002-04, and Paul Carter Hawkins, 1965-67.)

Those who have met the vivacious youngster from Redlands, Calif., understand her charm. Abbey sings, plays the piano, and is a friend to Earth’s creatures large and small. With her parents, Wendi and Joel, she has repeatedly traveled across the country to raise awareness of MDA’s mission at fundraisers, MDA sponsor events and MDA’s Labor Day Telethon.

Abbey has a form of Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease, which causes muscle atrophy, lack of coordination and loss of sensation in her arms and legs. She walks with the help of leg braces. A top fifth-grade student, she’s interested in becoming a veterinarian.

MDA President & CEO Gerald C. Weinberg said asking Abbey to return to this role wasn’t a difficult decision. “Abbey personifies all the good things that a child and MDA ambassador should be,” he said. “Her spirit and dedication are inspiring.”

MDA toll-free calls are now routed differently

Telephone calls to MDA’s national toll-free number — (800) 572-1717 — are now being routed to their destinations by MDA National Headquarters in Tucson, Ariz.

Many callers to the toll-free number are trying to reach their local MDA offices. Previously, such calls were routed to the local office by an automated system.

Now, between the hours of 9 a.m. and 5:30 p.m. Pacific Daylight Time (noon to 8:30 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time), Monday-Friday, callers will speak to an MDA receptionist who will route their calls to their local offices or other MDA departments as needed.

Top MDA honor for renowned neurologist

Acclaimed neurologist Lewis “Bud” Rowland of New York has been awarded MDA’s highest philanthropic achievement honor, the MDA Directors’ Award.

Lewis Rowland, right, accepts the MDA Directors’ Award from MDA Board Chairman R. Rodney Howell.

The award (the first ever made to a physician) honors people and organizations who have made outstanding contributions to MDA’s battle against neuromuscular diseases in the areas of medical research, media and entertainment industry support, corporate and organizational sponsorship and fundraising.

Rowland currently is a professor of neurology at Columbia University. He chaired that department from 1973 to 1998, and also directed the prestigious Eleanor and Lou Gehrig MDA/ALS Center at Columbia University Medical Center. He has authored hundreds of medical and scientific papers, many on research funded by MDA. He also has been a mentor to many researchers, and served on MDA’s Medical and Scientific Advisory Committees, as well as its Task Force on Genetics.

MDA summer camp is fast approaching

Applications are now being accepted for an experience that many children with neuromuscular disease consider to be one of the best of the year: MDA summer camp.

Each year, MDA hosts thousands of children ages 6 to 17 at barrier-free MDA camps at no cost to their families. More than 80 camp sessions are held throughout the United States and Puerto Rico.

Campers indulge in a host of activities, including horseback riding, arts and crafts, campfires, boating, swimming, spirit competitions and adaptive sports. Kids are paired up with volunteer counselors who assist them with all of their daily activities and make sure there’s always something fun going on. Medical staff is on hand 24/7.

All youngsters who are registered with MDA are eligible to apply for camp. Applications are considered on a first-come, first-served basis, and are subject to approval by MDA personnel and medical advisers. Pick up application forms at your local MDA office. For more information about MDA summer camp, visit the MDA Web site at or speak with your local MDA Health Care Service Coordinator.

Note: Volunteer counselors are being sought right now for the 2010 camp season, especially male camp counselors 16 years and older. If you know likely candidates, please encourage them to contact your local MDA office. All counselors undergo training prior to camp.

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