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Austin Angeloff is ten years old and suffers from Mitochondrial disease. His mom Gen, explains. “Mitochondrial disease is a metabolic disorder. The body doesn’t make enough energy. So for him, if he gets just a simple cold—his body is too busy trying to fight off the cold, to run his normal organs. So he has problems with paralysis of his stomach, paralysis of his intestines. We’ve been fairly lucky, as far as this disease goes, he’s considered relatively stable.”

How exactly does Austin describe his disease? “Basically, it makes my muscles get tired, I can’t digest things, I have to have a drain bag. And I can’t get fed, so I have to have a pump.”

Austin Angeloff has two great loves: WWE and riding horses. He has teamed up with Michigan State University Extension’s Proud Equestrian Program for the past five years. PEP is based in Dickinson County, and allows equine enthusiasts the opportunity during the year to ride one hour per day for one week.

MSUE’s Jessica Caron runs the progam and says PEP impacts families like the Angeloffs.

“Having something like this to look forward to every year is a huge highlight for the families and the riders alike, just to have something to be excited about. Not only that, but this riding program is designed to help with balance, coordination, and self-esteem, and social growth in the riders.”

Why does Austin love the horses? “Basically, they’re animals. I love animals. It’s fun and animals are super nice. And basically, I have so much fun on them.”

Gen Angeloff can’t thank Michigan State University Extension enough for the PEP program.

“There’s not enough good things we can say about Michigan State Extension. The 4-H here is the one that puts on the PEP program. And without Michigan State Extension, this wouldn’t happen. I can’t imagine our lives without the PEP program.”

After participating in the PEP program for five years, Austin has future plans. “Five years? I’m pretty sure, five years. Next year I’m going to help out, though.”

Ehmpressions of MSU is a podcast devoted to all things Michigan State University produced by Kraig Ehm.

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