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UCLA women’s gymnastics team makes it a special day for 6-year-old girl

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The UCLA women’s gymnastics team poses with 6-year-old Joselin Palma after spending the day with her.
(Blake Richardson / Los Angeles Times)

In a shimmery blue leotard with a silver star on the side, 6-year-old Joselin Palma tiptoed across the beam, kicking her legs up with each step as UCLA junior Madison Kocian held her hand.

The Bruins’ gymnastics team stood to her right, as Joselin paused at the edge of the beam as tall as she was, then hopped off. She stuck a perfect landing, and the team filled the practice gym with applause, and chants of Joselin’s name.

Partnering with the Make-A-Wish Foundation, the Bruins hosted Joselin at practice Wednesday morning, marking what the organization says was its 10,000th wish granted in Greater Los Angeles. Joselin danced with the team, beat coach Valorie Kondos Field in a pull-up contest on the uneven bars and climbed a rope hanging from the ceiling, with Kocian and junior Kyla Ross supporting her feet.

“One hundred percent fun,” Joselin said of the day.

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The Bruins chanted “10” after her stunts and cheered her on as she slapped high-fives and ran across the gym. At the end, they gave her UCLA gear, a Wheaties box with her picture on it, a trophy and a gold medal, which she received with a pose as it was draped over her head.

Joselin was diagnosed with gastroschisis, a condition in which the intestines are outside the baby’s body at birth, leaving her with shortened intestines; each night, she spends 10 hours receiving nutrients through a port in her chest.

“I think it was really inspiring, just for everyone to see her making the best out of the conditions that she lives in,” senior Katelyn Ohashi said. “And so that’s something you don’t always see a lot … it’s just really inspiring.”

It was Ohashi who piqued Joselin’s interest in UCLA gymnastics. Joselin, who is from Santa Clarita, has done gymnastics for two years and came across Ohashi’s floor routine when it went viral in January, earning more than 100 million views online. She has watched that routine countless times, and several others on a tablet, prompting the family to contact Make-A-Wish. She watched video of UCLA’s gymnasts again the morning of her day at practice.

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“I think after this, she’s gonna love gymnastics forever,” said Joselin’s father, Gabriel Palma.

Joselin was excited but sleepy when she arrived at UCLA early in the morning, and Palma saw his daughter’s face light up when she was greeted by the Bruins. She was filled with awe, Palma said, and then the fun began.

With the Bruins, she bounced on a trampoline, swung on the uneven bars, remained balanced on a handstand on the low balance beam and jumped in the pit of foam blocks. The tricks were challenging but Joselin mastered each one, with a boundless energy that lasted through the practice.

“There’s been hard times and there’s been difficult times that we have gone through,” Palma said, “and seeing her do all the stuff and pushing herself. … Honestly I have no words to explain it, because seeing her realizing how capable she is doing stuff, that’s just the cherry on top for me.”

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blake.richardson@latimes.com

@rblakerich_


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