Thriving 10-year-old gymnast is poster child for premature babies

- The March of Dimes is at the forefront of saving the lives of premature babies and the nurses and doctors in the NICU can do miraculous things.

They saved the life of a little girl, who was born small enough to fit into the palm of a hand.

But that tiny baby is now a thriving 10-year-old, whose strength and skill rivals most kids her age.

Ryleigh Butz is a gymnast and practices her flexibility, skill and control every day. 

It's hard to believe the back hand springing phenom was a preemie, born three months early, at just over two pounds and small enough to fit in the palm of dad Cory's hand.

"I was terrified. I didn't know something like that could happen. I never knew about premature birth," Cory said.

He and his wife, Missy, prayed together for weeks that their daughter would keep fighting and survive. And she did, thanks to the medical advances made possible by the March of Dimes.

Ever since Ryleigh's birth, Cory and Missy Butz said they have made it their mission to raise as much money as they can - every year raising more than the one before - to help other babies like Ryleigh.

Today, the Butz's are the March of Dimes' top fundraising team, with more than $160,000 raised to date.

It's been 10 years, and Ryleigh is the poster child for March of Dimes miracles - literally.

For years, she has joined FOX 13's Laura Moody and Mark Wilson for poster and publicity shoots in the weeks leading up to the March of Dimes March for Babies.

"She puts all her heart into her friends, into her gymnastics, into school," Cory said. "I couldn't ask for better."

Ryleigh travels the state from one gymnastics meet to another, constantly setting the bar higher, tweaking every detail. And every win for Ryleigh is a win for the March of Dimes, too.

Up Next:


Up Next

  • Thriving 10-year-old gymnast is poster child for premature babies
  • Visually impared teens help Metro Ministries during summer program
  • Biker turns to bicycles after life-changing accident
  • Bay Area collegiate swimmer encourages kids to get in the water
  • Children's Cancer Center gives families a place to escape
  • What's Right with Tampa Bay: Operation Military Matters
  • Bayou Nature Center connects children with nature
  • Creative writing workshops for kids promote literacy
  • Tampa Bay Heralds of Harmony win big in Vegas
  • Son honor's father's legacy of volunteering