There are approximately 600 muscles in the average human body that work together by contracting and relaxing to allow the body to walk, point, lift, jump, smile and breathe. This teamwork goes unnoticed by most; however, for the million-plus Americans who are diagnosed with muscular dystrophy and other degenerative muscle diseases, each flex or pull is something to be earned and cherished.

     On Feb. 19, Tyler Junior College, along with several other schools from around the area, will team up with friends and families to help the 400 East Texans who are affected by muscular dystrophy. They will help raise funding for the Muscular Dystrophy Association by participating in the Muscle Walk held by the nonprofit health agency at Bergfeld Park. Participants will be able to take part in face painting, emceeing by Luscious Ice from the Blaze and entertainment provided by the Apache Jewlyz, UT Tyler cheerleaders, bands and several mascots.

     Mark Taylor, who proves that strong muscles are not what makes a person strong, will participate in the walk, followed closely by his team known as “Mark’s Mighty Warriors,” comprised of family and friends.

     Muscular dystrophy is a broad term used to describe a group of genetic muscle diseases. These diseases are characterized by the weakening of muscles including the heart. It will progress at different paces and affects walking, running, balance and any activity that includes muscle use.

     After battling undiagnosed congenital muscular dystrophy and a long string of hospitals and specialists, the family of Mark Taylor was relieved to finally receive an answer in September 2009 as to what was affecting their son. Immediately, the Muscular Dystrophy Association, or MDA, swooped to the family’s side to offer help and support.

     Upon first glance, Mark may be mistaken for a shy, fragile 9 year-old, but he is full of determination, life and quite the chatterbox. Mark discussed his friends and adventures at an MDA-funded camp he attended for the first time this past summer.

     “When you first get there you get your cabin…then later we went horseback riding together,” Mark said.

     He continued mentioning swimming, fishing, canoeing and the rock-wall-climbing extravaganza he experienced while at Camp John Marc. “I made a whole lot of friends, some in wheelchairs, some not…”

     Mark is the son of College Preparatory Math professor Shawn Taylor, who was eager to tell of his determined son’s accomplishments.

     “Mark is a pretty determined kid. He worked and worked to gain enough balance to ride his bicycle…was outside all the time training himself to jump on the trampoline,” Taylor said, “He is also in non-contact Tae Kwon Do and he has won two first place medals. He’s actually pretty proud of it. Mark is always correcting his sisters on their form because he is a belt ahead of the rest of the family.”

     Professor Taylor also discussed how MDA has affected the family and Mark throughout this battle.

     “They have been here since we found out. They have stations set up in the specific hospitals we were in. MDA has been a huge help for us.”

Candace Pate, who began working with MDA when she was 16 years old as a MDA summer camp counselor, described her position as the Fundraiser Coordinator of the East Texas chapter.

     “I have gained so much more from my position than I can ever give; every day I am an advocate, educator and fundraiser for the 400 families we serve in East Texas,” Pate said. “I have met some amazing families and generous people during my short two years with   MDA.”

     The MDA is funded almost entirely by the generosity of individual private contributors. Although a cure has not been discovered at this point, research is underway and numerous ways of slowing the progression of the effects of the disease have already been found. To see the advances made or to read children’s Congenital Muscular Disease stories, visit CureCMD.org. Volunteers are encouraged to earn at least $74, the cost of one minute of research. Beyond the research, the organization also provides comprehensive healthcare, support services, advocacy and education. Although MDA is successful in their goals of accommodating the needs of these families, the need for participation in events like the Muscle Walk is a constant. Events are hosted year round; to get involved as a donor or volunteer, email: mhoneycutt@mdausa.org or cbpate@mdausa.org.

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