It is 10am on a frosty winter’s morning.
The sky is a piercing clear blue, the sun illuminating all in its path with an endless shimmer of gold and bronze. An eagle is soaring overhead, calling out hungrily to its prey below. My breath is a cloud of icy smoke rising above me.
Thank goodness for the extra base layers. It is baltic.
She whizzes past, pony tail flicking in the air, heels kicking up, and shouts of “Join our squad!” bellowing out across the fields, before reeling back into an array of seamless, perfectly executed carthweels.
The camera pans away as we all jump up and down clapping our hands in child-like joy, totally stoked that this little superstar nailed the last sequence on the first take. She gives a casual high five to our cameraman as she saunters back over to the swing, clambers on to it and proceeds to do the “floss” dance. For the record, I cannot do the floss. I have attempted it countless times, I have even Youtubed it (yes, there really are many videos online on “how to floss”- although I can testify that none of them actually work). I certainly cannot floss on a swing hanging precariously from the branch of a giant oak tree.
Our whirling gymnast on this freezing cold morning is Taylor, 8 years old. She is an avid gymnast, horse rider, skiier, tennis player and vaulter (gymnastics on horse back- yes really!). She also turns her hand to competing in tae kwondo and has recently taken up playing the fiddle. Phew! How does she fit it all in?
Incredibly, her mum, Charlie, juggles getting her to all her sports and events with her own full time job as a specialist support teacher.
We gather up our belongings, the shoot now over for our Munchkins Muscles video campaign.
“Sounds like a plan!”
“Only if we get extra cream and marshmallows!”
Meandering our way back to the car, and excited at the prospect of getting warm and cozy in the coffee shop, I get a chance to finally chat to Charlie.
“Taylor did great today, you must be so proud! It is so impressive that she does all of these sports and to such a high level at only 8 years old.”
“Yes she will try her hand at anything! Also pretty incredible considering her condition…”
I paused, suddenly stopping me in my tracks.
Taylor skips past giggling, chasing after my dog who has run off with her tennis ball.
So it transpired that this incredible little athlete, who literally took my breath away that morning with her positive, high energy vibes and amazing physical ability, has been battling with csystic fibrosis, since she was born.
Cystic Fibrosis is a pulmonary disorder that causes the production of abnormally thick mucus, affecting the lungs, bronchi , intestine and pancreatic ducts and can lead to serious infections.
How could this little super-fit marvel have this condition? I was baffled.
“She is such a healthy and happy child and she doesn’t let it stop her. If anything it makes her even more determined and driven.”
She sure is that alright.
“Sport has positively impacted her life enormously. She thrives off it. Any sport, anything at all, she will turn her hand to. It gives her energy and a huge boost. I only wish more kids realised the benefits that exercise has, not just on having a condition such as cystic fibrosis, but on living a fuller, healthier and happier life.”
For a child without csytic fibrosis, the busy sporting schedule that Taylor maintains is jaw dropping in itself.
I sat down with Taylor and her mum over a nice hot chocolate (extra whipped cream and marshmallows), and had a jolly good chat.
I established our Munchkins Ambassador Program to motivate children to get moving, try new sports and get fit. The Program comprises of a team of individuals from across the world, from all walks of life, who can be an inspiration to others in some way. The more children we can reach out to, the healthier and happier the world will become.
So who could be a greater ambassador to kids sport than this little star, who is out there carving her own path, breaking the norm?
Here is a snippet of our chat from that winter’s morning.
Enjoy- and if Taylor and her incredible story has motivated you or your little one, we would love to hear from you!
Hi Taylor! Thanks so much for joining us. Please tell us a little about you….
I am Taylor and I am 8 years old. I love to be outdoors. I do lots of different sports, some I compete in. I also take any opportunity I get to try out new sports just for fun. I am going to be trying out trick riding which I have wanted to do for ages. I used to live on a farm so I love animals and being outside no matter what the weather. I have 3 horses and 3 dogs so in between school and sports, i ride my pony and walk my dogs.
I just got a fit bit for Christmas so I am so excited to see how many steps I take in a day.
How does cystic fibrosis impact your life?
Cystic Fibrosis impacts my life as I have to do physiotherapy everyday. If I am unwell and develop a cough it means two weeks of antibiotics at a time and longer if I am still unwell. I have been very lucky that I haven’t had to stay in hospital yet for any treatments although I have had several midnight visits to the hospital. There are bugs that are in the air, on our skin, in dust, mould and hay that can have a serious impact on my health if I do get them into my lungs and they start to grow in them. I have to do regular cough swabs at home and on routine hospital visits which are every 12 weeks to make sure I don’t have those bugs. Every year I have to go to hospital for an extra appointment to have blood tests, scans and x-rays done to monitor changes in my lungs and other vital organs.
What have been the biggest challenges?
When I get ill, I am ill for longer and the symptoms are worse, especially in my chest so it is difficult as I still want to do everything as normal and be outside doing sports, running around and seeing my pony instead of resting as i don’t like sitting around the house. It is also hard sometimes when I cant do the same as others like getting hay for my pony as I want to be able to do everything. Also stagnant water carries a lot of bad bugs for me too so I have had to miss out on things at school like pond dipping and other restrictions out on field trips.
What positives have you made from it and how have you overcome these challenges?
When I am ill I do less so that I can get better but I still get to do some things as long as I wrap up warm and take extra care. I can’t exercise quite as much as it can cause some breathing difficulties. I do however have a lung function of 125% which means I am very fit even for a healthy child my age. This means that when I am ill I can still do lots and not get out of breath too easily.
Sports also stop me from feeling like I miss out on things. This is because I have become fit so when I do my sports, my illness doesn’t hold me back. I don’t have to sit out any activity that they do, I am level with everyone else.
How important is fitness and exercise to you?
Fitness and exercise is very important to me because being active and outdoors makes me feel so happy. Exercise is a form of physiotherapy so anytime I am doing sports and getting out of breath and jumping around, I am moving any mucus that is stuck in my lungs meaning less lung damage. It also means that since I am fitter, my lungs will last me longer as they have a greater capacity. I really enjoy the sports that I do so it means when I am ill, it cheers me up and makes me feel better by getting out and doing something than sitting around feeling sorry for myself. Just being out walking my dogs is good because it makes me happy that they are happy after getting exercise and running around free.
What are your favourite sports?
I do Tae kwon-do, gymnastics, ski-ing, equestrian vaulting, horse riding, and tennis. I enjoy all of them because they are all active and fun, and at every one of them activities I make new friends and we have a laugh together, at the end of the lesson we go to say thank you for our lesson. These are the sports I do weekly but I also enjoy other sports such as swimming, ice-skating and getting out on my bike. I now really want to try out hockey and rugby as well when I get some free time!
What advice would you give to other kids facing what you are going through ?
I would tell them that being active is fun and you enjoy it more once you get to know other people there. It also helps you to feel better and takes your mind off being ill.
I also don’t let having Cystic Fibrosis slow me down as I always think it could be worse. There are people who aren’t able to do many sports because they physically can’t, but I can and I don’t like to waste any opportunity I get to make things better for myself. Fresh air, running free and doing an activity that makes me happy makes me feel like I can do anything.
What is your proudest achievement to date?
My gymnastics team getting bronze in my first ever gymnastics competition and I also placed 2nd for my individual routine for my level out of Perth and Kinross.
I also won 7 trophies and several rosettes with my pony Squire.
What are your goals?
I want to continue to compete in gymnastics and horse riding. I also would like to compete with Kinross Vaulting team this year as I haven’t been doing it long and would like to go and see the other teams and compete with my team mates. I also want to inspire other children to get out and be active and to believe in themselves. I want to keep challenging myself.
How do you feel about becoming a Munchkins Ambassador?
I feel AWESOME! It is really amazing and cool that I get to be an ambassador for Munchkins Muscles. I really love the clothes too! It is funny because my mum has always called me her little munchkin too. I like that Munchkins Muscles want to do what they can to help our environment and animals. I am part of the next generation and want to be part of saving our planet and making it a better place for everyone.
What would you say to inspire other kids to try new sports ?
Sports are fun, I always seem to have fun no matter what. Even when I can’t do something yet, the challenge to do it is hard work but is the greatest feeling when you get there.
Live active which is available through our schools in Scotland have volunteers that do after school clubs for free where you can try a sport. It is great because it’s free and gives you a chance to see if you enjoy it and make new friends and doesn’t cost anything.
I would say try it, you might surprise yourself.
What is your motto ?
I can’t do it- YET!
Mistakes help me to learn and improve!
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