Why We Walk: Joe Akmakjian’s Photo Essay of the 2016 Denver Muscle Walk

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And so it begins! Though we may walk for different reasons, we share the same victory.

Earlier this month, in my home state of Colorado,  I had the honor of attending the Denver MDA Muscle Walk with some amazing families and individuals. Not only was it great to be back home, it was wonderful meeting so many inspiring groups of people. It never ceases to amaze me how close everyone in the MDA family network is to each other, even before they meet.

Though it’s been great to attend all kinds of events for MDA this year, I especially enjoyed this one. Living with a muscle-debilitating disease can be difficult at times. I try not to dwell

My favorite Denver news reporter, Greg Nieto, stopped by to get in on the action. It was great to see him and walk with him. Love ya, Greg!
My favorite Denver news reporter, Greg Nieto, stopped by to get in on the action. It was great to see him and walk with him. Love ya, Greg!

on the negatives. Instead, I want to focus on the fact that having this disease has given me the chance to meet some great people who I get to call my friends. Muscle Walk is a time for families affected by muscle-debilitating diseases to come together and unite in the fight for freedom and independence from our daily challenges. At these events, families and friends of MDA-registered individuals team up and raise money to fund research that helps bring strength to life for those with MD, ALS, SMA, and other similar diseases.

One of the things that makes each MDA Muscle Walk so unique is that our families lead the event, and it’s essential that MDA continues to expand this event so that families continue to have a way to help the cause and connect with one another. A sense of community and understanding are keys to living great lives despite the physical limitations many of us have. Our families understand that together we are stronger. Taking that victory lap around Sloan’s Lake in Denver on a day with record-breaking high temperatures was incredibly impactful. All day I heard a slew of great stories of triumph, positivity and strength. It’s difficult to describe what it was like for my friends and me to attend Muscle Walk. That’s why I chose to use photos to convey my thoughts. The pictures below tell a great story about the real meaning of Muscle Walk and why it’s so important to MDA and our families.

A quick thank you to my best friend of 20 years, Erin Mapes, and Anthony Paradiso for helping me take photos at the event!    

Learn more

 

Learn more about Muscle Walks in your area and sign up or donate today!

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Top fundraiser and longtime MDA friend Dan Pope getting the crowd pumped up for the walk.
We had a great turn out and raised over $50,000 for MDA!
We had a great turn out and raised over $50,000 for MDA!
I never turn down a friendly wheelchair race--Especially for a good cause!
I never turn down a friendly wheelchair race–especially for a good cause!

 

The heat was no match for our determined families. Thanks to all of the volunteers who made sure everyone stayed hydrated on what was the hottest day of the year thus far.
The heat was no match for our determined families. Thanks to all of the volunteers who made sure everyone stayed hydrated on what was the hottest day of the year thus far.

 

Even Miles from the Denver Broncos joined in the fun.
Even Miles from the Denver Broncos joined in the fun.

 

With families being at the heart of MDA’s mission, I was glad to see several youngsters getting involved.
With families being at the heart of MDA’s mission, I was glad to see several youngsters getting involved.

 

OK. Who doesn’t love a good game of Jenga?
OK. Who doesn’t love a good game of Jenga?

 

Colorado’s fantastic state goodwill ambassador, Liza, brought her whole family to Muscle Walk. Here she is with her two younger cousins!
Colorado’s fantastic state goodwill ambassador, Liza, brought her whole family to Muscle Walk. Here she is with her two younger cousins.

 

This amazing group of Walgreens employees was the top fundraising team this year. Thanks to them for all of their hard work!
This amazing group of Walgreens employees was the top fundraising team this year. Thanks to them for all of their hard work!

 

Team Sophie’s Strong Arms won best team spirit for designing and making their t-shirts. Sophie (not pictured here) is a young girl who was just diagnosed with a neuromuscular disease in November. Her family was excited to team up for their first Muscle Walk!
Team Sophie’s Strong Arms won best team spirit for designing and making their t-shirts. Sophie (not pictured here) is a young girl who was just diagnosed with a neuromuscular disease in November. Her family was excited to team up for their first Muscle Walk!

 

It was a pleasure catching up with my friend Ryan from my hometown of Fort Collins.
It was a pleasure catching up with my friend Ryan from my hometown of Fort Collins.

 

My team and I had so much fun greeting attendees at the registration table. My friend, Erin, (in the black hat) and I have been best friends since kindergarten.
My team and I had so much fun greeting attendees at the registration table. My friend Erin (in the black hat) and I have been best friends since kindergarten.

 

I was so moved by Shayne’s story. His sister, Carly, (the one holding the sign) told me that she and her family walk because they know he is proof that research is working. Shayne just celebrated his 29th birthday!
I was so moved by Shayne’s story. His sister, Carly, (the one holding the sign) told me that she and her family walk because they know he is proof that research is working. Shayne just celebrated his 29th birthday!

 

So many awesome connections and friendships were formed at Muscle Walk this past weekend. The amount of love in the park that day was overwhelming.
So many awesome connections and friendships were formed at Muscle Walk this past weekend. The amount of love in the park that day was overwhelming.

 

Mr. John Martinez was the top fundraiser at the walk. With the help of his firm, he raised over $1,400 for MDA! This was his sixth year attending and he told me he plans to keep coming every year.
Mr. John Martinez was the top fundraiser at the walk. With the help of his firm, he raised over $1,400 for MDA! This was his sixth year attending and he told me he plans to keep coming every year.