Participants pose before the Cartwheel For A Cure gymnastics meet...

Participants pose before the Cartwheel For A Cure gymnastics meet in Massapequa on Saturday. Credit: Peter Frutkoff

For the past two years, the Massapequa gymnastics team has hosted the annual ‘Cartwheel for a Cure’ fundraising event, which benefits the Madison Milio Tribute Fund.

This year, its senior gymnasts decided to create something special in honor of Madison, a 9-year old Massapequa girl who died in 2021 after a nearly three-year battle with diffuse intrinsic pontine glioma, or DIPG, a type of brain cancer.

“Before every season, I let the seniors create a t-shirt design for the team,” Massapequa coach Katie McCabe said. “This year they told me they had a surprise for me, and I figured it was a funny saying. I was blown away when they showed me what they had done.”

The seniors unveiled the shirt Saturday morning, which featured half of the blue and yellow Massapequa ‘M’ logo and half of the purple and teal ‘M’ logo used in Madison’s honor.

“It just felt like the right thing to do,” said Bella Conlon, a senior on the Massapequa team. “We all look forward to this event every year. The cause is important to us and the community, so we wanted to show that we’re always thinking of Madison."

Kristen Milio, Madison’s mother and the Sewanhaka gymnastics coach from 1999 to 2007, was there with her husband Michael and son Dylan. She said she was moved to tears when she saw what the team had designed.

“It’s incredible that they were thinking about her and took it upon themselves to go above and beyond,” Kristen said. “Madison would have been a sixth grader here at Berner Middle School this year, so this day has been difficult. But with what they’ve done, I know she really is here with us today.”

In the spirit of service and Martin Luther King Jr. Day, there were no winners announced at the ninth annual fundraising meet, which featured all 21 Nassau gymnastics teams. The only competition was a cartwheel contest, where more than 200 gymnasts took to the mats and attempted as many cartwheels as they could in one minute.

“As a coach you want to teach your kids to help others,” Nassau gymnastics coordinator and Bethpage coach Kim Rhatigan said. “This day is not about scores, it’s about awareness. We want to inspire them to pay it forward."

According to Kristen, the fund has donated over $65,000 to DPIG research and trials since Madison’s passing, largely due to Cartwheel for a Cure.

“As time goes on, people can start to forget, and I want the Milios to know that she’s still with us and she continues to make an impact,” Rhatigan said. “We’re going to do it as long as we can and we’re going to help find the cure.”

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