Buy a Shamrock, Grow Hope

It’s March, and at MDA that means only one thing: It’s Shamrocks season!

Each St. Patrick’s Day season for the last 37 years, MDA has partnered with 20,000 retailers nationwide to raise a little green (more than $323 million, to be exact) both to send kids to MDA Summer Camp and to fund groundbreaking research efforts and best-in-class care for kids and adults living with muscular dystrophy, ALS, and related neuromuscular diseases. With a simple $1 or $5 — or more — donation, supporters can sign their names on an iconic paper Shamrock, proudly pledging their dedication to our mission to transform lives through innovations in science and care.

Telling MDA’s story on each of those paper Shamrocks, too, is the face of an MDA Shamrockstar. Garin Stepp, a 15-year-old high school freshman living with Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD), has been lending his smile to the Shamrocks program for the last two years.

While he’s sometimes busy playing Xbox games or cheering on the Duke Blue Devils basketball team, Garin’s real passion lies in turning his favorite school subject, art, into an architecture career so he can design accessible buildings for all. In a way, participating in the Shamrocks program is similar. It’s a way, his mom says, of making hope accessible for all, too.

“Purchasing a Shamrock is one small way to participate in funding research in order to one day find a cure for kids and adults,” says Rebekah Stepp.

Shamrockstar Maya Pringle, 11, can speak to the power of innovative treatments. Just shy of two years ago, the fifth-grader, who lives with spinal muscular atrophy (SMA), began receiving Spinraza. The disease-modifying drug was the first of its kind, approved by the US Food and Drug Administration in 2016.

Shamrockstar Maya loves mermaids, Indian food, and writing stories.

“[Maya] loves getting her medicine and looks forward to the big week,” says Maya’s mom, Sapna Pringle. “We kind of have it down to a science. She has her pre-work (which is hydrating herself), and I’ve got my pre-work, which is making sure insurance approvals are set, making sure the drug has shipped out in time, getting the blood work scheduled and taking her for the draws, getting babysitting scheduled for her brother and sister. The family and her friends are excited for her and do their share by praying for a good procedure.”

Before each treatment, Sapna says, Maya readies her “Spinraza box,” which is filled with things that keep her busy and happy during the ride to the hospital and during her recovery from each treatment in the hospital. Before every treatment, Sapna holds Maya right up until she’s put to sleep.

“The Shamrocks campaign is a fun, easy, and affordable way to support MDA,” Sapna says. “It’s not just about sending kids to Summer Camp. Supporting the MDA means having access to current and future treatments by raising research dollars, supporting clinical trials, and advocating to government officials. Yes, the $1 or $5 really does help.”

This year, Maya is going with her family to visit a local restaurant in her hometown selling Shamrocks. She loves getting tagged on Facebook, too, Sapna says, by her friends and family but also by other kids living with SMA, like her friend and MDA National Ambassador Faith Fortenberry, who’s also a 2019 Shamrockstar.

Find all of MDA’s Shamrockstars at select locations including CITGO Petroleum Corp., Applebee’s, Albertsons Companies, Bojangles’, Burger King, Price Chopper, O’Charley’s, Kroger, Shaw’s Supermarket and Star Market, KFC, Fareway, and more. Take a selfie with your Shamrock and tag yourself and MDA, or make a donation online.

And this Friday, March 15, rally your coworkers, volunteer team, or group of friends for Green Day for MDA, when you and those with whom you work (or just hang out) can wear green to raise awareness and host unique fundraising events to support MDA — and kids just like Maya.

Supporting the Shamrocks program, Maya says, “helps kids and adults with SMA and muscular dystrophy be able to do things that they can’t normally do without help from organizations and resources.”

It gives her and others like her, she says, hope that “there are more treatments to make us stronger — and maybe walk one day.”