Mary Lou Retton Responds To Critics Of Fundraiser During Health Scare

By Jason Hall

May 23, 2024

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Olympic gold medal gymnast Mary Lou Retton responded to critics of her daughters' fundraising efforts to help her during a battle with a rare form of pneumonia during an interview with Entertainment Tonight on Wednesday (May 22).

“They didn’t deserve that. They were just trying to take care of me,” Retton said. “I don’t care about the naysayers. There are trolls everywhere. It’s what makes us America. Everybody’s got an opinion.”

“You’re welcome to your opinion. But you weren’t in that situation. My daughters stepped up to the plate and they saved my life," she added.

Retton's daughter, former LSU gymnast McKenna Kelley, revealed that her mother was "fighting for her life" while battling "a very rare form of pneumonia" in a Spotfund fundraiser launched on October 10, 2023.

"My amazing mom, Mary Lou, has a very rare form of pneumonia and is fighting for her life. She is not able to breathe on her own. She’s been in the ICU for over a week now," Kelley wrote. "Out of respect for her and her privacy, I will not disclose all details. However, I will disclose that she not insured.

"We ask that if you could help in any way, that 1) you PRAY! and 2) if you could help us with finances for the hospital bill.

"ANYTHING, absolutely anything, would be so helpful for my family and my mom. Thank y’all so very much!"

The account raised $459,354 in donations, far exceeding its initial $50,000 goal. Entertainment Tonight acknowledged that critics pointed out the family needing funds despite Retton's presumed past wealth as a former Olympic gold medalist, to which the retired gymnast confirmed she didn't have insurance and was not making much money at the time of her diagnosis.

“After a divorce … and then COVID hit. Literally, COVID hit. Our job is to be near people and talk to them and so there was no work whatsoever. It’s not like it used to be, let’s say that,” Retton told ET. “Height of my fame was years ago and I (was) just doing enough to make it, doing enough to pay my bills.

“I was doing that and then COVID hit and divorce took everything.”

Retton issued her first public statement since her diagnosis on October 30, 2023.

"I am beyond blessed to have the opportunity to make this statement," Retton wrote in a post shared on her Instagram account Monday (October 30). "I am overwhelmed with all the love and support from the world as I fight. I am forever grateful to you all!

"I'm with family continuing to slowly recover and staying very positive as I know this recovery is a long and slow process. I appreciate everyone's respect of my privacy at this time.

"When the time is right, I will be sharing more information about my health issues and hope I can help others who may face the same battle as me.

"I love you all. -MLR."

Retton is one of the most decorated American gymnasts in history, having won five medals at the 1984 Los Angeles Summer Olympics, which included becoming the first American woman to win the individual all-around competition. The West Virginia native appeared in several film and television show and served as an ambassador to the sport, as well as the President's Council on Physical Fitness and Sports during former President George W. Bush's administration, following the conclusion of her gymnastics career.

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