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Benefit show is tribute to gymnast's courage

March 26, 2006|By MARLO BARNHART

WILLIAMSPORT

Mary Meroney was determined not to let her intravenous treatment for cystic fibrosis keep her from showing up for gymnastics practice a couple of months ago at the 4 Star Athletic Complex.

"She wanted to participate anyway," said her coach, Deanna Kline, who was so inspired by the 16-year-old's courage that she began organizing a benefit performance that drew a large and enthusiastic crowd Saturday night.

The money collected from the performance was donated to the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, which Kline said spends 91 percent of its funds on research to find a cure for the inherited disease, which attacks the lungs and other organs of the body.

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"I was so gratified and so thankful for what my coach did for me," Mary said as she joined the spectators Saturday night.

Even when she is undergoing IV treatments, Mary still comes to practice and does the workouts that don't involve her arms, Kline said.

"This Friday, Mary came and worked out, even doing some tumbling," Kline said. "She has been coming here since she was 6 years old."

Kline and the other coaches at 4 Star arranged for the gymnastics teams to perform on all of the equipment at the complex, including the uneven bars, balance beam, floor and tumble track.

Lisa Buckley and Bob Sandburg gave a karate demonstration and Magnum Force - a national champion cheerleading squad - also performed.

Alicia Perez, a Maryland state gymnastics champion and 4 Star coach, performed, as did Russian gymnast Natalia Kruller and dancer Haleema Ford.

"The owner of 4 Star told me about the benefit, and I said I wanted to be here," Ford said as she warmed up and readied her music.

Mary said she was very excited to be the object of Saturday night's benefit performance.

"It makes me feel really good to be here," she said. "I can't play soccer, so this is how I exercise."

Kline said she wants Mary to get as much out of gymnastics as she can.

"I just want her to do and get what she wants out of life," Kline said. And she hopes Saturday's benefit will help save Mary, her sister, Rachel, and others with cystic fibrosis.

For more information on cystic fibrosis, go to CFF.org.

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