Oct. 4, 2012
IOWA CITY, Iowa — The University of Iowa women’s gymnastics team will participate in the Ponseti Races on Saturday morning to help raise awareness for clubfoot, the number one birth defect in the world. The event celebrates University of Iowa’s Dr. Ignacio Ponseti, the pioneer of a non-surgical treatment for clubfoot, the standard procedure worldwide.
“It’s such a great thing to show that we care, that we understand it, and really get behind supporting it,” said head coach Larissa Libby.
The event includes 5K and 10K runs, games, crafts, live music, and a special race for children who are able to run after being treated with the Ponseti Method. “The Ponseti event is a big fundraiser and festive event to celebrate Dr. Ponseti’s legacy and support families all over the world impacted by clubfoot that face the difficult process,” said former Gymhawk and Public Relations Coordinator for Ponseti International, Rachel Nash. “A lot of the Iowa sports teams get involved. Women’s gymnastics always attends, and they do a great job. The teams get to meet and stay in touch with the families over the years.”
This year, the women’s gymnastics team built a relationship with the homecoming kid captain, Ally Mauck, who was born with the birth defect. On Tuesday, Ally and her mother Joyce visited the Gymhawk training facility to meet the team and try out gymnastics.
Ally flipped on the trampoline and hopped fearlessly onto the beam, activities which were once impossible for her.
Joyce and Craig Mauck adopted Ally from China in 2004 when she was almost three-years-old and had never been treated for her clubfeet. The Maucks met with several doctors who thought Ally was too old for the non-surgical method. After considerable research the Maucks found Dr. Ponseti who was still treating clubfoot at age 91.
“Call it a mother’s intuition, but something told me that we needed to go with a less evasive method,” said Joyce. “The minute we walked into the clinic, I knew we were in the right place. I’m so thankful because it did prove to be the healthiest way to treat her.”
Joyce calls Dr. Ponseti — who died at age 95 in 2009 — their miracle worker. She speaks proudly of Ally’s progress and is grateful for the doctors, nurses, physical therapists, and Child Life specialists who made it possible.
“I can’t thank Dr. Ponseti and the whole medical team enough,” said Joyce. “Before, she couldn’t walk or ride a bike. The basic things that kids enjoy, she couldn’t do. Now she can run, ice skate, do taekwondo, and she loves doing gymnastics with the girls. I’m forever grateful and think every child should get that chance.”
After undergoing 16 manipulations and cast changes in a three month period, Ponseti Method practitioner Jose Morcuede, MD, PhD, performed a simple surgical procedure: a tendon transfer to prevent relapse.
“Iowa is our clubfoot family and has a very special place in our heart,” Joyce said. “To be able to be at the Hawkeye homecoming game and have my little girl be the kid captain was incredible. All the doctors and everyone here have done so much for her.”
Tuesday, Ally showed the gymnastics team her taekwondo moves and learned a few gymnastics tricks. Ally looks forward to participating in the Ponseti Races on Saturday, and the UI gymnasts will be her biggest cheerleaders.
“It’s been great for our team to get involved the past few years,” Libby said. “Watching the kids that come back from being in a wheel chair to walking is a phenomenal experience. The kids recognize our athletes when they return, and our athletes are able to celebrate the kids’ accomplishments.”