This past Saturday was the MDA (Muscular Dystrophy Association) Muscle Walk in Nashville. I can’t recall now how many Muscle Walks I’ve done so far, and there’s no telling how many more I’ll do.

Last Thursday, I had the news on to catch the weather report. I was mostly just listening to it as I worked on other things, when I heard, “And for Saturday’s MDA Muscle Walk…” and I froze. The Muscle Walk was that close? How did I not know this?

I talked it over with my Mom, telling her how much I wanted to do it, but I wasn’t sure I could raise much money in 24 hours. Plus, I really wanted a t-shirt, which required a minimum $100 raised. She said she’d help me hit that $100 mark, so I immediately signed up and donated $100. Boom! I was in…

I spent the next day spamming my Facebook feed for donations, but being so last-minute I knew deep down it was a pretty futile attempt.

Ironically, late that same night, as I was wrapping up going through some stacks of mail, I found a post card the MDA office in Nashville had sent me back in February about the Muscle Walk. Oops? I guess in traveling so much the beginning of the year, that post card got lost in the shuffle… I’ll pay more attention next year?

Anyway, Saturday morning, I woke up, put on my Project Maynardstang baseball shirt, and headed down to Vanderbilt University for the Walk.

SIDE NOTE: Project Maynardstang is a project raising awareness for Muscular Dystrophy, specifically Duchenne. Maynard is my nephew’s nickname his dad gave him, and Stang is for his Mustang, Ugly Betty. My nephew has Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy, one of the worst degenerative muscle diseases out there. He started this project to raise awareness as well as help raise money for MDA.

The last Muscle Walk I’d attended in Nashville was held at Bridgestone Arena, and being at Vandy this time I had no idea what to expect.

I arrived and walked up to the registration table to get my t-shirt. I told them my name and they clearly recognized my name. “Oh! Yes! Here you go!”

Oookay. Well that was cool. I grabbed a green ribbon to show I was walking for Duchenne, and then started wandering around. There was a huge white board where you could sign and state, “Why I Walk.”

I signed it, “Cody Project Maynardstang.” As I finished, and turned around, there was a man standing there with an MDA polo shirt on who called me by name.

Now, at this point in my life, I’ve become active in so many different areas, that I’ve slowly started to no longer be alarmed by being called by name. Now I just find it hilarious.

I confirmed that, yes, I’m Denise, and he explained that my signing up so late and without being on a team really made me stand out. Ah. Yes. That does make sense. “What’s your story?” was essentially his question,  and he asked if the person I was walking to honor was here in Nashville.

“No, Texas. My family does a lot with the Waco MDA Office.”

“Oh I’m from Texas! I went to Baylor.”

Well OF COURSE HE DID. Because… this is my life. And this is what happens.  I find the most random connections with people… and I LOVE THAT. So I launched into explaining Project Maynardstang, and my nephew, and pretty much talked his ear off with way more information that I am sure he wanted. But I didn’t care. I had someone to listen. I had someone who understood. I had someone who cared.

After we visited, I continued to walk around. I picked up a few things in their tent sale. I met WSMV’s Snowbird. Watched kids dance to the music. Laughed at the antics of Snowbird and the Nashville Sound’s Mascot, Booster.

It didn’t take long until it was time to walk. We did a lap around the Vanderbilt Recreation & Wellness Center. I think I saw somewhere it came out to 3/4 of a mile. I ended up being near the front of the pack, and I did my first Facebook Live feed for the entire walk.

One thing I came to realize through this whole thing is that… you have loved ones with a disease or a disability or whatever the case may be, you often find yourself feeling helpless. If you’re like me you just want to fix it right then and there. Every day you wake up wishing you had the ability to make it all better.

Here’s the thing… you do have the ability to make it better. BY SUPPORTING THOSE WHO CAN HELP. I can’t wave a wand to make my nephew able to walk. I don’t have the knowledge to create the cure. I don’t have the resources to eradicate this disease. But I CAN WALK. And I can attend events like this. And I can talk about MDA. I can donate to MDA. I can teach people about Duchenne and what it is. THAT’S how I can help. That’s how everyone can help.

So I went live and talked for half an hour about the walk and MDA. I kept repeating the same stories and thoughts. But it was my way of helping. It might not have been much in the grand scheme of things, but every little action you can do helps add to other actions that eventually build to things like cures being found. To hope being multiplied. To never again having a mom and dad be told, essentially, “Your child will be lucky to graduate high school.”

As I crossed the finish line, I made my way over to where I could watch everyone else coming in behind me. And I literally was moved to tears. The long parade of people of every race, religion, social standing, age… all walking with the same purpose: to find a cure for all types of muscular diseases.

I am so, so happy I went to the walk on Saturday. That I didn’t throw up my hands and go, “Oh its too late to do that.” when I heard about it on Thursday.

I left with something stirring in my heart and soul: hope that grows with every Walk I attend. Hope. THAT’S WHY I WALK.

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