The Northwest Georgia/Southeast Tennessee Chapter of the Muscular Dystrophy Association is enrolling walkers to help pick up the pace on finding a cure for muscular dystrophy by participating in the 2012 MDA Muscle Walk March 31 at the Chattanooga Zoo.
This year's slogan is "Make a Muscle Make a Difference." The goal is to welcome 200 walkers.
"The Muscle Walk is like a family reunion," said local chapter MDA fundraising coordinator Tracie McCartney, adding that children fighting MD reconnect at the walk. "Through funds raised patients can go to clinics for free in Knoxville and Atlanta."
Eight-year-old Nolan Swafford, a Red Bank resident who is the namesake of the walk's Caring Hearts for Nolan team, was diagnosed with Becker's muscular dystrophy at age 2. However, he does not let his condition hold him back. Instead he plays basketball and swims.
"What's so important to me is the majority of the money raised at the Muscle Walk sends children with muscular dystrophy to summer camp," said Nolan's mother Misty Swafford, of Red Bank. "I'm a single mom with three kids and I could not send Nolan to camp. Organizations [that sponsor the Muscle Walk] enable him to go to camp and have a good time."
Swafford began walking in the Muscle Walk in honor of Nolan three years ago. The Caring Hearts for Nolan team is composed of family members, friends, Red Bank Baptist Church members and Cub Scouts.
For those interested in taking part in the fourth annual Muscle Walk, registration begins at 9 a.m. March 31.
The local MDA chapter currently serves 400 area families with a member fighting Becker's MD, Duchenne MD or Lou Gehrig's disease.
"Sometimes it's hard for families [with MD patients] to fundraise," McCartney said. "They don't have money for wheelchairs or food because of medical bills and that's where we step in to help them continue life."
She said fundraisers like the Muscle Walk also provide funding for free flu shots for patients fighting MD and provide wheelchair repairs and leg brace repairs, in addition to sending children fighting MD to summer camp.
"We sent all the kids to a camp called the Center for Courageous Kids in Kentucky," she said. "All the kids with MD from Georgia, Kentucky and Tennessee go there and have a ball. They make friends and have a great time. It costs us $800 per child to send them to camp. We sent 100-plus kids from this area of Southeast Tennessee and Northwest Georgia to camp last year."
She said teams that usually take part in the Muscle Walk include The Walking Dogs, Brenden's Second Chance, Camp Cruisers, Caring Hearts for Nolan and Warriors Against Duchenne for Dillon. The main sponsors of the Muscle Walk include Volkswagen Chattanooga, HDS Vans and Mobility, Kohl's, Chicks Lumber and Walgreens.
As a third-grader at Red Bank Elementary School, Nolan enjoys learning math and spelling. Even though he shows signs of leg issues such as having trouble jumping or running fast, overall he is doing remarkably well. He plays Upward Basketball at Red Bank Baptist Church and made the winning goal for his team this season in March.