As a proud Franklin High School senior,  I’ve had the distinct honor of creating a service project that empowers both myself and others to help solve a problem that’s very near to my heart. Five years ago, my brother, and my best friend passed away as a result of a femur fracture. Patrick was diagnosed with Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy, a severe type of muscular dystrophy at the very young age of three. Muscular Dystrophy is an uncured neuromuscular disease which causes the degeneration of an individual’s muscles over the span of his lifetime.

Patrick was born, like many of us, with the gift to walk and run, and yet gradually, as his legs lost function, he lost what most of us take for granted. It was heartbreaking to see his confidence fade as his control over his body was stolen from him by this disease. My family and I spent time and prayers doing everything we could to improve his short life. We went on trips to Yellowstone, the Grand Canyon, and Niagra Falls in order to give him some of life’s most beautiful experiences. Additionally, we fundraised, and created awareness about Patrick’s fatal disease, hoping that a cure could be found before it took him away, hoping we could spend just a little more time with him. However, God’s plan was different, and my brother passed away, way to early, much shorter than we had expected. This horrible thing that touched the very core of my being, left me with the desire and duty to continue advocating and helping the many, many other children with Muscular Dystrophy.

Having participated in fundraising and support for the Muscular Dystrophy Association (MDA) during my entire childhood, I recently decided to create a service project that would continue my support and inspire others in my high school to join me. Throughout 2017, our team has collaborated with the MDA fundraising director to raise money for MDA through bake sales, the MDA Muscle Walk hosted at Vanderbilt University, and a donation based program organized by the local firemen, called Fill-A-Boot. In addition, we have organized and launched an awareness day on March 17, 2017 – St. Patrick’s Day: a great day to not only pay attention to all of the other victims of Muscular Dystrophy but to remember my brother, Patrick. Thus far, not only has this project given me the opportunity to use my organizational and project management  skills to benefit MDA, but it has also enabled me to express my gratitude to the association for its outstanding impact on my family’s life and the lives of other victims. Hopefully, with continued time and effort, we can contribute  to the grand process of finding a cure for this horrible disease, so that nobody else will have to suffer the fate of my brother.