Bryson Foster Named MDA's 2012 National Goodwill Ambassador

Concord ( N.C.) boy with Duchenne muscular dystrophy will spend the year making friends for MDA by 'speaking from the heart'

Article Highlights:
  • MDA’s 2012 National Goodwill Ambassador is Bryson Foster, 11, an avid sports fan with a quick wit and a knack for public speaking.
  • Bryson has experience representing MDA as a goodwill ambassador in the Charlotte, N.C., area.
  • Bryson succeeds Abbey Umali, 12, who served as MDA’s National Goodwill Ambassador for four years.
by Steve Rivera on February 16, 2012 - 6:00am

If he inspires at least one person, Bryson Foster says it all will be worth it. If he amuses or amazes, that too will bring a nice inner satisfaction.

They all will be part of his role — and much, much more — as the Muscular Dystrophy Association's 2012 National Goodwill Ambassador.

MDA has announced that Bryson, 11, of Concord, N.C., will succeed Abbey Umali, 12, of Redlands, Calif., who served as MDA's National Goodwill Ambassador for four years (the longest term in MDA history). "Get ready to smile!" she joked with Bryson in a congratulatory email.

Bryson already has that skill down pat, along with a real knack for public speaking.

Bryson Foster next to his parents, Phil and Claire
MDA’s new National Goodwill Ambassador Bryson Foster with his parents, Phil and Claire

"For some people, I do think I've been able to inspire them with my story. I think I've impacted them." Bryson says. "Some people I’ve been able to make laugh and some people I've made cry. I just hope I'm not dull. It makes me feel good inside, doing what I'm doing."

Affable and quick-witted, Bryson is determined to help MDA make a difference by sharing his positive attitude and words from his heart.

"I just feel it’s something I was meant to do," he says of being a public speaker. "I say what comes from the bottom of my heart. A perfect speech doesn’t come from a piece of paper. It comes from the heart."

Bryson and his parents, Claire and Phil, will travel the country throughout the coming year representing individuals and families affected by neuromuscular disease, participating in special events and meetings of national MDA sponsors, and speaking with the media.

Bryson also will be featured in MDA promotional materials and public service announcements used nationwide.

"Bryson has such a great smile and positive attitude!" says Valerie A. Cwik, MDA's interim president and medical director. "He immediately connects with everyone he meets. We're excited to have him and his parents represent the Association this year, helping us spread the word about our commitment to fighting muscle diseases."

Bryson has Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD), one of nine forms of muscular dystrophy covered by MDA. It's characterized by muscle weakness that initially affects the hips, legs and shoulders, and eventually spreads to all voluntary muscles. He's still ambulatory but uses a power wheelchair for long distances.

"We're very proud of him," says his dad, Phil, who is employed by US Foods in Fort Mill, S.C. "As parents, you're always proud of your children. But that night he spoke [for the first time] at an MDA event — it even gives me goose bumps speaking about it now — we saw that there was a plan for him, that God had a plan for him to get the word out."

A fifth-grade honor roll student at Furr Elementary School in Concord, Bryson is a self-proclaimed sports fanatic. He has his own weekly sports talk program at his school, often greets his friends with high-fives and loves to read the Bible. When he grows up, he says he wants to be the quarterback for the Cincinnati Bengals, and a head coach or a sports broadcaster.

Bryson has been a Charlotte-area MDA Goodwill Ambassador, and he and his family were featured on the local broadcast of the MDA Labor Day Telethon on WAXN-TV 64. He attends MDA summer camp at Camp Bethelwoods in York, S.C.

The Fosters already take part in many state and local events for MDA, including Muscle Team, Muscle Walk, Lock-Ups, Shamrocks, mobile kickoffs, Fill the Boot, golf tournaments and social events. Bryson's also a regular at events sponsored by MDA national sponsor Lowe's, headquartered in Charlotte.

"What's happened so far has been fun because I get to tell my story," Bryson says. "You get to meet such great sponsors and people. And they understand your story because they have kids or have been around kids."

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