Preparing to go to jail — for ‘good’

Jun. 05, 2013 @ 10:51 AM

On June 20, I am going to jail — and I can’t wait.

Granted, I won’t have the typical inmate experience. My warden not only wants me to make bail, but has pledged his services to help me do so. And from what I’ve heard, I’m headed to “the slammer” not for a crime — but for “having a big heart.”

In truth, all I’ve done is commit to helping the Muscular Dystrophy Association in its fundraising efforts. A caller recently asked me to join several local leaders “behind bars” during the Sanford Lock Up, which will be held at the Carolina Trace Country Club.

The caller explained that at an appointed hour, my fellow “jailbirds” and I will be arrested and taken into custody. My soon-to-be jailers assure me that by my incarceration, I am supporting MDA as it serves the families of those affected by more than 40 neuromuscular diseases.

Specifically, the funds we raise will help provide clinic services, support groups, research grants and the summer camp program.

Here in North Carolina, the organization offers Camp Carefree in Stokesdale for youth ages 6-17 who have been diagnosed with muscular dystrophy. The average cost to send one child to camp, where they can fish, swim, ride horses and take part in other activities, is $800, according to MDA.

Admittedly, I knew little about muscular dystrophy or the organization until I began this experience — but I’m learning more every day. The group of diseases under the heading of muscular dystrophy have the common effect of weakening muscle tissue — causing a range of symptoms.

Those who suffer from these conditions, which are genetic, often must use a wheelchair and have trouble breathing and swallowing. Other organs, including the heart, may also be affected.

MDA reports that life-saving studies are happening right now in our area, and the organization also operates more than 200 clinics nationwide, which includes facilities in Chapel Hill and Durham, to assist both children and adults.

My “bail” has been set at $2,500 — a relatively small sum compared to the purposes it will serve. And my commitment of time (I’m told I’ll be detained for an hour) is likewise negligible if it helps one muscular dystrophy patient have an enjoyable summer at camp, or contributes to 20 minutes of research (said to cost $1,480).

Every little bit helps, and those wanting to contribute to my bail can do so through my fundraising page at www2.mda.org/site/TR?px=1813820&fr_id=6229&pg=personal. You can also look me up and find my fellow “jailbirds” at www.mdalockup.org/sanfordlockup. I appreciate any and every donation backing my efforts to aid those with muscular dystrophy and their loved ones.

There is now no cure for muscular dystrophy, but in the meantime, we can make a difference.

Jennifer Gentile is the news editor of the Sanford Herald.