By Daniel J. Vance


  If you tuned in the national Jerry Lewis MDA Telethon in 2001 or 2002, you likely saw and heard 27-year-old Rob Roozeboom, a motivational speaker from Sheldon, Iowa. This year Roozeboom also appeared on the Minneapolis edition of the telethon.

  And boy, do these telethons tug on him. "When I sit on the stage [at any MDA telethon] and watch people speak out for me, it really melts my heart," he said. "It's hard to put my feelings into words, especially when I watch the profiles of persons with muscular dystrophy and their families."

  As one of several national spokespersons for the Muscular Dystrophy Association (MDA), Roozeboom speaks to sponsors, families and MDA fundraising groups. MDA featured him in its video “Where Hope Begins." In 2001 he and his wife Sharla had the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to privately thank Jerry Lewis backstage in Los Angeles.

  Muscular dystrophy is a neuromuscular disease that often strikes children and young adults. Roozeboom has one of nine known forms of the disease. Generally, people first notice symptoms when a genetic mutation leads to the absence or deficiency of a protein needed for muscular function. It affects about one million Americans.

  "My type of muscular dystrophy, "limb-girdle," itself has about ten different types that doctors so far have been able to identify," Roozeboom said.

  For years now the disease has been eating away at his biceps, shoulders, stomach, pelvic and thigh muscles. "Limb-girdle" can lead to heart and respiratory problems, and in advanced stages to his using a wheelchair. It won't affect his mind or senses at all and shouldn't shorten his life.

  "But you can't tell I'm different by looking at me," he said.

  Besides his MDA work, Roozeboom has founded an organization, Rise Ministries, through which he hosts a weekly radio program and addresses school, business, and church groups on the topics of "hope" and "overcoming adversity."

  Roozeboom seems brimming with confidence in his future. Perhaps that comes in part from knowing that enough Americans care about him and others like him with muscular dystrophy to send in their telethon pledges for a cure. And he is grateful for every penny you send. "My heart is overjoyed with gratitude for those fighting for us, and filled with compassion for those with muscular dystrophy," he said.

  Rob Roozeboom is one more reason to mail your telethon pledges today.

  Learn more at www.mda.org, www.riseministries.com or www.danieljvance.com