by Melissa Brunner
I remember it clearly. In 1997, our local MDA Telethon segments were based out of West Ridge Mall. About mid-morning, I walked outside with a young man named Adam and his parents. Adam was all of six-years old and it was his first year at telethon with us - and it was my first telethon, too. We looked at the hillside behind the mall and saw some deer walking. It was a beautiful site on a picture-perfect morning.
Fast forward. Adam is now 22! And I am.... well, we won't say! We shared that memory this week when we visited MDA camp. Adam attended the camp for 10 years and now returns as a counselor. He says he's fortunate that the symptoms he experiences from his form of MD are mild enough that he can help the other kids cope with their conditions.
What's the big deal about summer camp? Imagine attending a school or growing up in a town where you are the only person with a disability. It's not that people are necessarily cruel or that they intentionally leave you out - but it can be hard for young people to remember to slow down - and it's tough to always be the one left behind. Neuromuscular diseases are progressive. In Adam's case, his condition may not be obvious to those who meet him. So, while his classmates got stronger and faster, he gradually became slower and found himself on the sidelines. It was frustrating.
Enter MDA camp. For the first time, he didn't feel like he was bringing anyone down if he couldn't run fast. Instead, he found people lifting him up. He was surrounded by others who understood the challenges and frustrations of wanting so badly for your body to do something that it just wouldn't. He also came to learn that, frankly, it didn't matter. He has mind, his personality and his will. With those things, you can achieve anything to which you set your mind, whether you get around with a wheelchair, leg braces or your legs themselves.
It is often said in MDA circles that the only muscle you need is your heart. Adam has that battle won. I have been privileged to come to know many people through MDA. Adam is just one of them. He credits MDA camp with making him the person he is today. I credit Adam and people like him for making me the person I am today as well. Adam, you are truly an inspiration.