The Orthotics and Prosthetics (O&P) Society student organization at California State University, Dominguez Hills (CSUDH) made it possible for 12-year-old Zion Redington, who has ectrodactyly and was born with one finger on each hand and one toe on each foot, to compete in 25th Annual Aspen Medical Products San Diego Triathlon Challenge Oct. 19-21 in La Jolla, Calif.
The O&P Society raised $2,000 for Zion and his mother, Heather Redington-Whitlock, to fly from their home in Franklin, Tenn., to La Jolla, and to register Zion in the triathlon. They also raised enough money to pay for their hotel room, car rental, and expenses.
“The O&P students were fun and I loved spending more time with them at dinner. I really liked that they wanted to hang out with me. Haiden Nelson was really cool and funny,” said Zion, who first worked with the O&P Society three years ago during a Challenged Athletes Foundation (CAF) running clinic. “I also really enjoyed being with my CAF friends. It’s really cool to be around other amputees and have that be the norm.”
Follow Zion Redington’s journey at Goziongo.com.
Hosted by the CAF, the triathlon provides opportunities and support to people with physical challenges so they can pursue active lifestyles through physical fitness and competition. Proceeds from the triathlon help the organization pay for adaptive equipment and the training and mentoring needed for the competitors prepare to compete.
Nearly 200 physically challenged athletes and more than 550 able-bodied athletes, celebrities, and professional triathletes competed in the the grueling race, which for the past 25 years has been a major fund-raising event for CAF. Zion swam for a half-mile during the swimming leg of the triathlon, competing with Team Crabby, and signed up for the surfing clinic. The O&P students also helped Zion and other athletes at the running and swim clinics during the triathlon.
“After hearing Zion’s story and his family’s struggles we couldn’t imagine sponsoring anyone else,” said Kelsey Phillimeano, president of the O&P Society who is earning a Master in Health Science/O&P option at CSUDH. “Being able to sponsor an athlete gave us a way to give back to the O&P community in a way we never had before. It increased our understanding of how important events like CAF can be to the rehabilitation and success of our patients.”
Zion was adopted by his mother from China when he was 2 years old. As he grew, she knew he would endure significant physical challenges throughout his life —he was already broken his metatarsal bones several times—and would continue to become more limited in his mobility. She consulted with his doctors and the decision was made when Zion was 6 to amputate his feet to prevent further injury and make mobility possible again.
Today, Zion is athletic and competes in multiple sports at both regional and national events. Redington-Whitlock is grateful for the relationships her son has developed through the O&P students, and the sense of community the CAF offers.
“I was in shock at first when I heard what the O&P students wanted to do. I remember them saying it would be great to bring him out to experience this again, which is great because we can’t financially afford to come out,” she said. “This was the first time Zion was able to complete in the half-mile swim on Team Crabby in the open water. He did really well. These events and working with the students have helped Zion develop his character and great relationships with other kids and adults, and have opened his eyes to the fact that not everyone has 10 toes and 10 fingers.”