Christina Albert participates in the Paralympics

Cristina Albert is living a professional snowboarder’s dream. A natural athlete, she’s only been snowboarding competitively for 3 years. But it’s enough. Three years of diligent training, an immense natural talent, and a strong community of support have fortified Cristina enough to qualify for the 2014 Paralympics in Sochi.

Cristina’s story from the beginning

Twenty-five years ago Cristina was born in Romania. Her life circumstances were challenging from the beginning. She had been born with a rare birth defect called Amniotic Band Syndrome that hampered circulation to her feet and legs. In addition to the genetic disorder, Cristina was also born with a clubfoot, which would impair her mobility forever if she did not receive the proper surgery.

Christina was also an orphan. She lived in an orphanage in Romania with abandoned and similarly disabled young children. Sadly, the future of such children was bleak. Left to languish in orphanages for most of their lives, the majority of these orphans never received the medical treatment they needed, let alone any support or refuge from a loving family.

The meeting that changed Cristina’s life happened when she was three years old.

Phoebe Albert was a United Airlines employee who was delivering donated supplies to the orphanage where Cristina lived. When she met little Cristina, it was love first sight.

With the help of PCI and longtime PCI supporter, Marie Oliver, Phoebe was able transport Cristina from Romania to Denver, Colorado, where St. Luke’s hospital had offered to provide the surgery necessary to save her leg.

Ten surgeries and many years later, Cristina did finally have to have her damaged leg amputated after a post-surgery staph infection made the limb unsalvageable. By this time, she was 12 years old. It was a sad and disappointing day, but the love of family and support of community prevailed.

Since she had been in Denver, Cristina had been working with Stephen Oliver – Marie’s son – who had a martial arts school in the area. With the benefit of Stephen’s guidance, training and the added bonus of free equipment and lessons, Cristina achieved black belt status. By that time, even though she had recently lost her leg, the amazing young girl’s strength of spirit eclipsed her disability. Exclaimed Marie: “I’m not sure

[she] is aware that she was born with a handicap!”

Growing up in Denver, Cristina and her adopted mother, Phoebe, remained loyal to their PCI family. They – as well as another adopted sister – participated annually in PCI Walks for Mankind. Cristina held a privileged status as PCI’s “special” walker – originally in a stroller and eventually of her own volition.

In March of 2014 Cristiana will be competing in Sochi as a United States contender in the Paralympics. Her event is Snowboard Cross. Although she has only been snowboarding competitively for three years, she has quickly risen through the ranks as one of the nation’s top snowboarders.

What a bright star to have risen from such a dark beginning. 25 years ago, she was a disabled orphan girl – all alone in the world. The love of one woman and the dedication of the PCI organization changed her life forever.

Go, Cristina! We’ll be rooting for you as you compete in the Paralympics in Sochi, this March 2014. Your accomplishments are amazing – for you, and also as an inspiring example of the wonder that is people helping others!