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news News Wednesday, June 13, 2018 Wednesday, June 13, 2018 10:53 AM - Wednesday, June 13, 2018 10:53 AM

Former Tampa patient gives back as volunteer Special Olympics coach

Amanda Restivo overcame spina bifida to earn cross-country college scholarship

Former Tampa patient gives back as volunteer Special Olympics coach

Amanda competing in 2013 NationalsBy Mary Schille

Amanda Restivo graduated from Florida Gulf Coast University in the spring of 2017 with a degree in community health. Born with spina bifida occulta and a fatty tumor on her spine, Amanda became a patient at Shriners Hospitals for Children — Tampa in 1996, receiving care until 2002. Thanks to Amanda’s hard work, her family’s support, and the outstanding care that she received at our hospital, Amanda overcame tremendous obstacles and won a cross-country scholarship. Grateful that the care she received helped her excel and become active in her community, Amanda recently volunteered in the marketing and communications department at the Tampa Shriners Hospital. Eager to help others with special needs, Amanda also shares her passion for track and field by mentoring athletes in Special Olympics. Amanda’s leadership and compassion should inspire former and current patients at our hospital to succeed.

After having her tumor removed as an infant, Amanda’s parents brought her to the Tampa Shriners Hospital to receive care for spina bifida occulta, a group of conditions affecting the spinal column. At Shriners Hospitals for Children — Tampa, Amanda had follow-up care for symptoms of spina bifida, including MRIs and testing of her bladder control. Although she was extremely young when she was a patient, Amanda recalls tiptoeing up and down the halls as her doctors tested how well she could walk.

Amanda’s parents recalled how the coordinator was “very caring and informative” and made sure they were comfortable with the care their daughter was receiving. For Amanda, the best part was “always leaving with a big smile and a toy.”

After receiving care at Shriners Hospitals for Children — Tampa, Amanda grew up healthy and played several sports including soccer, basketball, cross country and track. Inspired by her mother, Amanda began running competitively at an early age. “I was always naturally speedy. My mom is a runner, and she ran in college, so my interest in competitive running stems from wanting to be like my mom,” Amanda said. In the fifth grade, Amanda joined her school’s cross-country team, and then ran competitively from seventh grade through her sophomore year of college. By the end of high school, Amanda was a four-time All American in track and won a scholarship to Florida Gulf Coast University. For Amanda, the most satisfying aspect of running is the freedom that it brings her. “I feel liberated when I throw on my running shoes and hit the trails, sidewalks and roads,” Amanda said. “When I was still competing, I loved being on a team where I shared a common goal and bond with others.”

Amanda recently began volunteering at Special Olympics as a track coach for the Collier County team.

“I enjoy cheering the athletes on, and bonding with them over a sport that I have loved and dedicated myself to for so long,” she said. “If volunteering for Special Olympics has taught me anything, it is that we are more alike than different.”

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