(WIBW) - Where to begin.
Many years ago, this breath of fresh air breezed into our MDA Telethon broadcast location. She might have been delivering a donation, I don't recall exactly. What I do remember is the bright smile, easy hug and infectious laugh.
As we spoke, she also admitted to a bit of anxiety and fear. Loran Martin had been diagnosed with Friedreich's ataxia, and no one could say exactly what that would mean for her future.
I'm sure Loran was upset with herself for letting a few tears slip out. She'd quickly brush them aside, the smile would return, and you could see the determination - the determination to fight. To live.
Friedreich's is a rare disease that attacks the nervous system, causing movement and coordination problems that worsen over time. There is no cure.
But it also had never met Loran. We'd catch up at telethon each year and she was so proud when she told me about the job she loved at the Burlington Rec Center. In 2012, she invited us to watch as community members came together to give her what any independent young woman would want - a home of her own! They built it just for her, to accommodate her movement needs and the wheelchair she was using more frequently. Facebook has been a wonderful way to touch base and follow her smile as it lit up the world.
Today, that world is a bit dimmer. Loran passed away unexpectedly. Within hours, her Facebook wall was flooded with messages from so many people who knew and loved her. They also raised a special flag outside the Burlington Rec Center today. It features her beloved Kansas Jayhawks and the words, "Forever Loran."
Loran was an inspiration to all who knew her and she touched more lives than she will ever know. The impact of her three decades on earth is immeasurable.
People like Loran are why we fight. For 17 years, I spent my Labor Days alongside Ralph raising awareness of Friedreich's and other neuromuscular diseases. The telethon may have ended, but the work of MDA does not. So many exciting things continue to happen because people like Loran are willing to live and fight and give every day.
Rest easy, my friend. Your work here lives on.