Helping Kids Learn to Give Back

This is the fourth year that my daughter will be participating in the Muscular Dystrophy Hop A Thon on her school team. It is probably more important to these kids, as one of their classmates is affected by Duschenes Muscular Dystrophy, and they have been witness to the difficulty faced by their classmate, as well as his family. Not every child has that experience, and I believe that it is powerful inspiration to want to help, to want to make a difference, to want to look at the world as other than an "I" centered place. Our teachers and parents are so supportive. Our principle has come in costume for the purpose of encouraging the kids...imagine well over 6' tall, distinguished, respected, experienced wearing a very large tutu and tights, or impersonating an extremely large teddy bear.

It is that time of year again. The 2013 Hop A Thon is underway, collecting pledges of financial support to fund not only research for treatment and cures, but to assist families with extraordinary expenditures that come with raising a child affected by Muscular Dystrophy. With their participation, they learn about the disease itself, and also the fact that there is no cure, at present. It is a lesson in empathy for others, but also a lesson in thankfulness for their own health. I firmly believe that it helps put things in perspective, where children who aren't the best atheletes in the school can still appreciate their ability to particpate at all. For children affected by Muscular Dystrophy, most participation is precluded by their illness. All the kids in my daughter's school will participate in some way. Many will actually hop all afternoon long, non-stop, to earn the pledges. Other children will make posters to encourage the hoppers. Parents will supply refreshments, and of course, we can count on staff and principal to do something original and out of the ordinary in support of this cause. For the duration of the campaign, the focus is on others, and others who are less fortunate in health and physical ability. Watching this program, year after year, and despite the difficulties of the economy, our school team has consistently met and exceeded their fundraising goals for this cause. In fact, they kids have been honored more than once for being the best in the nation for grade school teams.

This year, they want to go bigger and better than last. They are always trying to come up with new ways to add to the support network. As always, the people affiliated with our church and school are more than generous in their pledges and physically being present, volunteering to encourage the kids in person. Their classmate, Logan Mitzell, will be graduating from 8th grade and moving on to high school. Even with his ailment, he strives to be like the other kids, part of his class, part of his school teams. He attends all the soccer games, even though he cannot play. He assists our coaches with the record books in the capacity of team manager. He is such a cheerful kid, despite being limited. He is enthusiastic about the same sorts of things as his classmates. His family is so close and so dedicated to making his grade school experience "just like the other kids", as much as possible. It is easy to forget that he has such a serious condition, even though he already is dependent upon a wheel chair. He is animated and involved and has become a truly wonderful spokesperson for this awful disease.

They have made the fundraising aspect of this process a whole lot easier and safer for the kids. In our present society, it is not a good idea to have kids going door to door as many of us selling Girl Scout Cookies or Boy Scout Popcorn. MDA website has dedicated space for teams who are fundraising to register the team, and each participant can have their page to track progress of the team as well as the individuals. It is possible to go directly to the website, locate your favorite team and participant, and make donation directly to the Muscular Dystrophy Association through the team and participant you select. The kids are not carrying around envelopes full of cash, nor are they going door to door in the community, which might not be wholly safe for the participants. I would encourage everyone to visit the site, and not only for the fundraising aspect, but to learn more about a disease that affects a great number more children than most people would expect. I know I was shocked to learn the extent of this disease, how many children are truly affected. And knowing of a family who is struggling with the disease, I can be certain that the vast majority of contributions are truly going to the cause rather than administration. So many volunteers really minimize the impact of administrative costs, and yet the volunteers are every bit as dedicated and professional as anyone receiving a salary.

I would also suggest that anyone who has children may want to explore putting together your own event with the help of MDA. The possibilities are endless. Basketball or Soccer shootouts, Dance A Thons, Cheer events, whatever your kids enjoy can be applied to help a wonderful cause. And the value of teaching kids to help others cannot be measured in dollars and cents. Helping kids realize that thing that they are capable of doing can actually help others is huge. Our youth has been accused of being materialistic and self-absorbed, and perhaps that is the fault of adults who don't realize that kids can step up and do something constructive and positive without requiring a huge amount of help and assistance from adults. I am sure that if you visit the website, you might even find teams, already up and running, in your own community. These teams might welcome your assistance and support, welcome the participation of your children. We can't blame children for not considering others, if we do not set the example and provide the opportunities for them to successfully participate. Here is a wonderful cause to touch their hearts and minds, because it affects their peers, other children. It is something to which they can readily relate.

If it isn't a project that you would wish to undertake personally, I know that Team St Paul Aurora and my daughter, McKenzie Fitzpatrick would gratefully appreciate a visit to their team page and individual pages to make a contribution to support their efforts. And as with any charitable cause, all contributions are tax deductible. Please support this wonderful campaign in any way that you can. Not only will the families struggling with Muscular Dystrophy appreciate the assistance, but the kids who are participating will be encouraged to keep volunteering their efforts on behalf of others. Success breeds future success. Everyone grows and profits from the experience. It is truly a "Win/Win" situation for all concerned. Please consider supporting an existing team or perhaps beginning one of your own. It really is alot of fun for everyone involved. It is easy to forget that the fun is in aid of research, treatment, and assistance for children and families struggling with such an awful disease. Please consider helping. More information can be found at

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