NORTH KINGSTOWN, R.I. (WPRI) — Riley Marley O’Grady isn’t your average 8-year-old.
Whether she’s skiing or snowboarding, O’Grady can shred with the best of them, and she has a need for speed.
Renowned filmmaking company Teton Gravity named O’Grady the winner of their national season edit contest last year for a video of her skills on the slopes.
O’Grady isn’t just “shredding pow,” as ski enthusiasts typically say. She’s also shredding expectations.
Her mother, Heidi O’Grady, still remembers the day she learned her daughter had cystic fibrosis, a life-threatening disease that impacts the lungs and digestive system.
Riley hadn’t even been born yet.
“She was going to be in and out of the hospital,” Heidi recalled her doctor saying. “She was going to have chronic lung infections … [the doctor] told us all of the things she wasn’t going to be able to do.”
Riley underwent two surgeries within the first two months of her life. But like the obstacles she slays on the mountain, Riley has never let the disease stop her, especially now that a new medication has essentially eradicated her symptoms.
“When she runs around the neighborhood with other kids, they’re the ones who are out of breath,” her father, Matthew O’Grady, said. “It’s crazy to us because thinking back, we always wondered if she would be able to play soccer, and sure enough, she can.”
It’s a pride that brings her mom and dad to tears every single time they watch their unstoppable little girl, who’s also the youth ambassador for the local chapter of the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation.
Riley’s successes prove what’s possible for others with cystic fibrosis, especially when you have hope.
“We could be sitting here in the same spot in 10 years and I will be saying, ‘Do you remember when Riley had cystic fibrosis?'” Matthew said. “That’s what we hold on to. We’re anchored in hope.”
Riley and her family are hosting the annual Newport Great Strides walk this spring to raise money for the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation. In her four years as a youth ambassador, her family has raised more than $120,000.