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Del Norte Student Inspires Athletes to Join Her Cause

By: Elizabeth Marie Himchak, RB News Journal
March 18, 2010

Several triathlons and races are being entered this Spring in the name of Tehyathon, a cause inspired by Del Norte freshman Tehya Foussat.

Among those competing starting March 27 are Martin Reisert, the first athlete to advocate her cause two years ago. He was her teacher at Oak Valley Middle School in 4S Ranch.

rbFoussat, who turned 15 last Saturday, was born with Lipomyelomeningocele, the most severe form of Spina Bifida. Doctors told her parents, Tony and Christine Foussat, she would unlikely walk and have "little to no quality of life". Despite the prognosis, they raised their daughter believeing she could accomplish anything. In childhood she not only learned to walk, but became a competitive cheerleader, gymnast and swimmer.

It has not been easy. After her third spinal cord surgery, the then-seventh-grader's' condition deteriorated and Foussat lost the ability to walk, had debiliatating headaches, severe pain and other medical problems. She had to leave school and try alternative therapies.

It was at this time that Reisert decided to enter the April 2008 Arizona Ironman Triathlon in her honor and raised about $6000 for Shriner's Hospital which has been providing Foussat's care.

That led to the Foussat family founding Tehyathon, a non profit organization to support spina bifida patients and their families, and provide resources to researchers. Its other focus is helping the homeless through "Tenderness Totes" that are filled with basic necessities. Helping others is a cause near to the teen's heart.

"I think it's amazing," said Tehya Foussat. "I never expected it to happen. It was an idea and dream that is now coming true."

Foussat returned to eight grade, was elected school president and earned straight A's. As a Del Norte freshman, she became a cheerleader and next month plans on running for ASB president. High school is "pretty fun" and "I'm enjoying every bit," she said.

Christine Foussat said her daughter gets tired easily and at times has to use her wheelchair on campus, especially on days when she needs to conserve her energy for cheerleading.

"She's really in touch with her body," her mother said, adding they are grateful for all the support from the school's staff and students. "She still has a lot of pain, but works through that pain with a positive attitude. At her age, she realizes when she needs to rest her body so she can accomplish things."

"No matter what your situation is, surround yourself with good people, believe that it will get better, and make the best of the situation," is Tehya Foussat's advice.

Reisert said the athletes are inspired by the teen's positive, upbeat attitude and constant concern for others.

It's because you have a child that's achieved things against all odds," Reisert said. "That is inspiring." Instead of racing for themselves, they are (racing for something) bigger than themselves."

For more on Tehyathon or to make a donation for an athlete competing in the name of Tehyathon, go to or call 858-869-9004.


Tehyathon, Inc. is a federally recognized 501(c)(3) non-profit organization • All donations are tax deductible • © Spirited Design. All Rights Reserved