Why I Walk: Hope for Harrison

MDA Muscle Walk is a life-changing event that strengthens families and communities. But it’s more than anotherfundraising walk. It’s a powerful experience that forges lifelong connections, celebrates families and the barriers they overcome and turns hope into answers.

We will be featuring stories of MDA families and their dedication to Muscle Walk here on Strongly over the next several months. This is adapted from a speech that Jessie Aldridge gave at the Wilmington, NC Muscle Walk event in March. Learn more and sign up today at mdamusclewalk.org.

Harrison and some of his heroes.
Harrison and some of his heroes.

I am the captain of the Muscle Walk team Hope for Harrison. The team walks in honor of Harrison, my son, who was diagnosed with Duchenne muscular dystrophy in late summer 2011. I formed Hope for Harrison that following March, and I have participated in our local Muscle Walks every year since, even volunteering at the one in Greenville, SC. We started out raising money through a letter campaign, but now we’ve grown to holding our own fundraising events, like an annual donut sale and poker runs. My daughter even did a lemonade stand. This year we held our first 5K, and I hope to make an annual event.

We do all of this because I believe in MDA’s mission: “to free individuals — and the families who love them — from the devastating effects of muscular dystrophy, ALS and related life-threatening diseases so they can live longer and grow stronger.” There’s a lot summed up in that: research, clinics and equipment. I’ve experienced a few of these first hand. For example, MDA is how we found out about a study that we are working to get Harrison enrolled in. The trial concerns a potential treatment that we wouldn’t have known about if not for the periodic study updates from MDA. Every time Harrison sees his doctors at the MDA Care Center, the local MDA staff from Chapel Hill are there and happy to see you and eager to help. Just knowing there is someone I can turn to is a weight off my shoulders. And I’m grateful for it.

But it’s not just research, clinics, and support. The biggest reason I support MDA is that MDA is about living a full life.  When the MDA says they are “freeing individuals… to live longer and grow stronger,” to me that means working to ensure those living with diseases like DMD live long, full lives. Whether that’s by helping to make mobility equipment available or by offering summer camps, MDA is freeing people to live. One of the things that most drew me to MDA is the summer camp. Harrison’s sister was able to attend day camps, but he had to stays home because they can’t accommodate special needs. MDA summer camp is just for him. It’s a place where he gets to have fun. As a parent, that’s a huge thing. He needs to get to be a kid too.

We will keep coming back each year because with MDA’s help, Harrison gets to be a kid and I have hope that he will live longer and grow stronger.