Boca Gymnast Champ Offers her National Medal to Girl with Sickle Cell Disease
When gymnast Cameron Marshall heard that 11- year-old Lia Ottinot of Miami Lakes was living with sickle cell disease, the 2015 AAU national gymnastics champion told her mom she wanted to give Lia her gold medal.
“Mom, she’s a champion,” said the 9-year-old of Boca Raton.
Her mom, Toni Marshall, who had heard Lia’s story on WHQT (Hot-105 FM) radio, contacted Lia’s dad, Sunny Isles Beach City Attorney Hans Ottinot. She invited Lia to National Gymnastics Day held Saturday, Sept. 19, at Cameron’s gym, Rising Stars Gymnastics in Boca Raton. Lia was the honorary guest.
“Lia loves gymnastics,” Ottinot told Marshall. “I am touched by this.”
Lia is a spokesperson for OneBlood, an organization that encourages blood donations for people suffering with diseases like sickle cell, a painful, inherited form of anemia caused by irregularly shaped red blood cells. The disease disproportionately affects African-Americans. It occurs in about 1 of 500 births in African-Americans and 1 of 1,400 Hispanic births.
However, it also can be found among those whose ancestors came from sub-Saharan Africa; Spanish-speaking regions in the Western Hemisphere (South America, the Caribbean, and Central America); Saudi Arabia; India; and Mediterranean countries such as Turkey, Greece, and Italy. There is no cure.
Blood transfusions help alleviate some of the pain, which Lia described as feeling like you are being punched, sometimes.
On Saturday, Lia was all smiles when she entered the gym. She received a medal and an honorary membership. Julie Willmott, owner of Kids Choice Sports, Dance & Fitness, the umbrella company of Rising Stars, wouldn’t let gymnast Cameron give up her gold medal, so the gym provided Lia with another medal.
“Cameron worked too hard for the medal,” Wilmott said. “I’m so very proud of her for wanting to give it up, but it was her first national all-around medal, I couldn’t let her do it.”
Lia joined other kids and gymnasts as they participated in a two-minute handstand salute at 1 p.m. Rising Stars gymnasts, who grabbed 71 of 75 potential medals at the AAU Nationals Gymnastics competition in Las Vegas in June, tumbled and showed off their other skills. It was time for Lia and the others to try out the gym. They balanced on beam, pulled up on bars, cartwheeled and jumped –a lot.
“I am having a lot of fun,” said Lia, taking a quick water break. As an honorary member, Lia can visit the gym whenever she’s in town. Cameron now has a new friend and is learning about a disease.
“I’m so proud of Cameron,” said Marshall, who also works at the gym. “It is so important that she holds on to her generous spirit. It also is important that she learns about this particular disease that disproportionately affects us.”
On Saturday, Rising Stars joined the fundraising efforts for sickle cell research. Those wishing to help out Lia and others may stop by the gymnasium, 6500 W. Rogers Circle. For more information, call 561-998-4225.
By CRA News Service