Four-year-old Maelynn Tribendis’ infectious smile turns to giggles when she’s asked about her hot pink wheelchair and the therapist who is training her to use it.
“She has a crush on him,” Plum’s Kaitlyn Tribendis, 30, said of her daughter’s therapist. “She goes to (therapy) two days a week. She wants to go more.”
Maelynn, who was diagnosed with spastic cerebral palsy when she was 18 months old, will be one of two honored guests at the Shamrock Shuffle 5K and 1-Mile Fun Walk on March 16 in West Leechburg.
The other honoree, 19-year-old Brendan Miller of Canfield, Ohio, also suffers from spastic cerebral palsy, a disorder that can make it difficult or impossible to move.
The event, along with a dance later in the day at the West Leechburg Volunteer Firemen’s Recreation Hall, is being organized by the nonprofit group Semper Gratus to raise money for cerebral palsy research.
Last year, the group raised nearly $25,000 for the Muscular Dystrophy Association.
Organizer Ian Coyle said tickets are going fast for this year’s event.
Obviously, Maelynn’s wheelchair training isn’t just about spending time with the therapist of whom she is fond.
“We’re trying to build her upper body strength,” Kaitlyn Tribendis said of her daughter using the manual wheelchair. Maelynn also uses a bright purple walker when she attends prekindergarten two days a week at Plum’s St. John the Baptist Catholic School.
Ohio’s Miller, who was diagnosed at 2½ years old, said he underwent much physical and speech therapy.
He ultimately was able to walk unaided and even play wide receiver and cornerback at South Range High School.
Miller is in his second semester at Eastern Gateway Community College and plans to transfer to Youngstown State University to study communications. He does play-by-play sports announcing for Your Sports Network.
Your Sports Network’s founder D.J. Yokley said he’s a “bigger fan of (Miller) every day I’m around him.”
Miller said he’s a big fan of Maelynn’s and can’t wait to meet the Tribendises at next month’s event.