By Austin Wells
Before the parents of 11-year-old Preston Tarrant received the news that their son had a form of muscular dystrophy, they weren’t even aware that any such disease existed.
Nevertheless, the diagnosis completely changed their lives.
“When Preston was first diagnosed with it, we had never heard of it,” Preston’s mom, Ashley Tarrant, said. “It threw our whole world for a loop.”
The Tarrant family will host a car wash in the CiCi’s Pizza parking lot off of Wesley Street on May 31 from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m., to raise money for a wheelchair lift to go on the family’s Jeep Patriot, which will allow transportation for Preston and his motorized wheelchair.
While Preston, a fifth grader at Bowie Elementary School in Greenville, is able to take a bus for the handicapped to school every day, the family car has no mechanism for carrying around his power chair.
According to Ashley, insurance and the MDA (Muscular Dystrophy Association) covered the cost of Preston’s medical equipment, but that they didn’t cover expenses for devices such as the wheelchair lift for the Jeep.
Ashley’s mother, Cheryl Wilson, gave her the idea that they could put together a simple fundraiser to help raise money for the wheelchair lift.
“We just came up with the idea to try and do something simple because we’ve never done any fundraisers before,” Ashley said.
In hopes of garnering more awareness about the fundraiser, Ashley passed out flyers to the teachers at Bowie Elementary, who in turn gave them out to their students.
“They seemed really involved and helpful,” Ashley said.
When he was 6 years old, Preston was diagnosed with a form of muscular dystrophy only found in male children.
Muscular dystrophy, a terminal illness involving the deterioration of the body’s muscles, affects one in every 20,000 boys.
“When they’re born they’re fine,” Ashley said. “But by the time they’re 6 or 7 years old, you start to notice that they can’t really run like the other children, or jump or climb stairs as well.”
Most boys with the disease are unable to walk by the time they reach the age 11 or 12, and by age 15 or 16, begin to lose their upper torso muscles and become weaker in their arms.
Still going through school while raising both Preston and his little sister, Ashley said she received a lot of helpful suggestions from parents throughout the community, and that she looks forward to meeting more people during the car wash fundraiser.
“I’m looking forward to getting the word out and letting more people know about the struggles we have been going through,” Ashley said. “To meet new people through this and get more help would be great to us.”
Ashley said they have looked into other options of trying to get a van with a lift built in on the inside, but the expense of such a vehicle was too much for them to take on at the moment.
“It’s something we’ll look at in the future,” Ashley said. “But right now, just having a lift to be able to carry it and get it around will be ten times easier than not having anything at all.”
Ashley said they hope to raise about $1,000 with the car wash.
The Tarrants have been trying to get a wheelchair lift for the car since January, knowing that Preston will attend an MDA camp on June 16, and will need his power chair to ride around with the other boys.
The five-day summer camp, free to children who are members of the MDA, provides all manner of fun activities campers, including horseback riding, fishing, zip lining and Preston’s favorite activity, swimming. “He always says his favorite thing to do at camp is swimming,” Ashley said.
The event is held annually at Camp John Marc, 3247 County Road 1105 in Meridian, and welcomes children with physical disabilities from all over the state.
This year will be Preston’s third time to attend the camp.
The car wash fundraiser will be the first that the Tarrants have ever put together for their son since his diagnosis. Ashley hopes that the event will open her up to doing more fundraising events for Preston in the future.
“Seeing this fundraiser being put together, and the branches of support it has opened up is really neat in itself,” Ashley said. “It won’t be so hard in the future to do other things.”