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Cartwheel for a Cure, a Nassau girls gymnastics event, raises funds for the cystic fibrosis cause

Twenty high school teams gathered for the two-day Cartwheel for a Cure meet at Oceanside on Saturday, Jan. 18, and Monday, Jan. 20. Organized by Cold Spring Harbor coach Teri Kindelmann, the teams raised money for the Boomer Esiason Foundation, which funds research for cystic fibrosis, a genetic disorder that affects the lungs and other organs. Both of Kindelmann’s daughters, 9-year-old Matison and 7-year-old Charlotte, have CF. (Credit: Newsday / Julia Elbaba)

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. once said, “Life’s most persistent and urgent question is: 'What are you doing for others?' ”

Those words are the motivation behind a comprehensive Nassau County girls gymnastics event, Cartwheel for a Cure, that features all 20 programs in the county over two days and concluded on Monday on Martin Luther King Day at Cold Spring Harbor.

Kim Rhatigan, the Section VIII gymnastics coordinator and the Bethpage gymnastics coach, said that Cartwheel for a Cure motivates the girls beyond the results in the gym: To raise awareness for cystic fibrosis.

“This meet is solely focused on fun and fundraising, not winning or losing,” said Rhatigan. “It’s about enjoying the day and raising money for cystic fibrosis, a cause that’s near and dear to our hearts.”

"It motivated me alot," said senior Jenny Mullan of Massapequa. "It was just an extra reminder to all of us that is important to think about other people."

What started six years ago as a meet between Cold Spring Harbor and Bethpage has turned into a two-day event. Oceanside hosted the first 10 teams on Saturday.

Cold Spring Harbor coach Teri Kindelmann works diligently to make Cartwheel for a Cure successful year after year. Kindelmann’s daughters, 7-year old Charlotte and 9-year-old Matison, both have cystic fibrosis, an inherited life-threatening disorder that damages the lungs and digestive system.

"My daughters feel like celebrities during this event," said Kindelmann. "Everyone knows their names and they get a lot of support."

All proceeds of the fundraiser go to the Boomer Esiason Foundation, which aims to heighten awareness, education and quality of life for those affected by the disease while providing financial support for research.

Although Esiason, the Long Islander who is a television commentator and former NFL quarterback, couldn’t make it to the meet, his son Gunnar, who is afflicted with the disease, had a powerful audio message for the girls played before the event began: 

“Hi everyone, it’s Gunnar Esiason. I’m twenty-seven years-old living with cystic fibrosis. I want to say thank you to everyone for participating today in Cartwheel for a Cure. Because of events like this, people like me living with cystic fibrosis are living longer lives than ever before. Thank you for all of your hard work.”

At the end of the event, all the athletes did cartwheels for three minutes straight. 

“In three minutes, the girls do as many cartwheels as they can and we collect donations by the cartwheel or just flat donations from the parents,” said Rhatigan.

With 80 cartwheels in a row, Charlotte Kindelmann displayed her athletic talent, perseverance and endurance.

Last year, Cartwheel for a Cure raised $10,000 for the cause and it is hoped that number will be exceeded this year.  

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