PAnews.com, Port Arthur, Texas

Opinion

July 20, 2013

Join me in helping send a kid to MDA summer camp

PORT ARTHUR — It’s been two years since I took that ride in the back of a Port Arthur Police car to the MDA lockup. The officer showed up at The News building with a warrant for my arrest. To be released, I had to raise bail.

Now they’ve called my number again. On Aug. 7 an officer will be here to take me to the lockup. This column is my start on raising bail.

I guess if I’m going to convince you to donate money, I should tell you what it is going to be used for. All the money donated will go to the Muscular Dystrophy Association, which funds research, education programs, sponsors 200 clinics, and most importantly for our purposes, sends kids to summer camp.

MDA has a local office at 700 North Street in Beaumont. It is on the Web at mda.org. The tax forms for the past three years, the agency’s tax exempt status and the Annual Report are all on the Web page for anyone to download and examine. I think it’s important that agencies like the MDA are very transparent with their funding. If they’re going to ask you for money, they need to be up front with how they use it.

What the local office is asking us to do in this fundraising campaign is to raise money to send local children to summer camp at no cost to their families. MDA camps offer activities especially designed for children who have limited mobility or who use wheel chairs.

Just what is this disease that’s affecting these kids? Actually muscular dystrophy is a group of more than 30 inherited diseases, according to MedlinePlus, an online service of the National Institutes of Health. All forms of MD cause muscle weakness and muscle loss. Some forms appear in infancy or childhood, others later in life.

All forms of MD grow worse as the person’s muscles get weaker. Most people with MD eventually lose the ability to walk. There is no cure. ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease, is a form of MD.

I asked the young lady at the local MDA office if I could share the story of a local person who had been to the MDA camp. She sent me the story of Peter Ramirez. Perhaps it would be best if I just shared their letter:

“Our son, Peter Ramirez, was diagnosed with Spinal Muscular Atrophy, a form of Muscular Dystrophy, when he was nine months old and his prognosis was to live to be only two years of age. The MDA has played a major part of helping our family learn how to care for Peter and all his medical needs. Without MDA’s help, Peter wouldn’t have the quality of life he enjoys every day and wouldn’t be celebrating his 11th birthday this September.

“Peter has enjoyed attending MDA’s Camp for All where he is able to participate in activities that he wouldn’t otherwise be able to do, such as horseback riding, canoeing, zip lining and many other fun activities. Peter’s favorite experience from camp is feeling like he isn’t the only one with a disability and that he can do amazing things like his friends.

“Peter looks forward to starting school in August so he can share his amazing camp experience with his friends. Our favorite story is when he stumped his class when they had to guess who had what experience during the summer and his experience was zip lining. Peter loved that no one in his class guessed that he was the one that zip lined at camp.”

The letter is signed “Marla, Trey and Peter Ramirez”

I can remember when Boy Scout summer camp was the highlight of my summer. I liked summer camp so much that I got on the staff at Camp Bill Stark and spent about two months there for a couple of summers. I know lots of others reading this column had summer camp experiences with Scouts, with church or other camps.

But imagine if you were in a wheel chair or had leg braces. Shouldn’t those kids get a good camp experience too? But to make it possible they need special equipment and supplies, health care professionals and camp counselors trained for the special needs of MDA campers.

It costs $800 for one week of MDA camp. They are asking the MDA “Jailbirds” to raise money to send three kids to camp. I’m asking you to help. $114 buys one day of camp.

To donate, you can go to www.mdalockup/midcountylockup and find my name. You will see that a number of local people are raising their bail. You can send me an e-mail at rcowles@panews.com and we’ll work out a way for you to donate. You can call or text me at 719-3096. They have given me proof of donation cards that I can provide.

If you would like to give in honor of someone and have it listed in the newspaper, I’d be happy to do that like we do for the Holly Days Christmas Fund.

Let’s send a kid like Peter to summer camp. If we all give together, we can do it.

E-Mail: rcowles@panews.com

Twitter: @RogerCowles

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