When you first meet Crystal Molina, the 16-year-old from Dover, Fla. initially appears shy. But beneath the reserved façade is an outgoing, motivated athlete. She plays wheelchair basketball with the Tampa Bay Jr. Strong Dogs, hockey for the Tampa Bay Lightning sled program and also competes in various sports for Paralympic Sport Tampa Bay.
"I love it" crystal says of all her activities
Crystal’s journey started at Shriners Hospitals for Children – Tampa, where she continues to receive care for spina bifida, a condition that has left her using a wheelchair and custom orthotics. Over the years, she has formed lasting relationships with the staff in POPS and had great things to say about the people who work on her orthotics, Kevin Harrell and John Fritz.
“They really are patient with you and make sure to ask what you want,” Crystal says about the staff at Shriners Hospitals for Children – Tampa. “Kevin and John always do really cool designs on my braces for me.” Her favorite braces usually have sports items painted on, perfectly capturing her athletic nature.
She makes sure to tell people that spina bifida doesn’t hold her back. She proudly recalls two big accomplishments: her first basket on the 10-foot hoop and her first goal at a scrimmage for sled hockey practice
“I was so happy,” she says with a bright smile.
This summer, Crystal added to her impressive resume when she started volunteering in POPS. Every week, she would come inoto Shriners Hospitals for Children – Tampa to file papers and hand out toys to patients. For Crystal, it is fun to help the department that once helped her gain the confidence and independence she needed to be involved in sports.
The Plant High School student loves animals and wants to study to be a veterinarian. For her mother, Sandra Ruiz, watching Crystal become so independent with the help of Shriners Hospitals for Children – Tampa has been a source of pride.
“They have been very good to her,” Sandra says. “She’s always been a busy lady. I’m very proud of her.”