PHOENIX -- Ten years ago this weekend, my life began to change.
I was just starting out at my first broadcasting job, anchoring the news in southern Oregon. My job included gathering the news, writing those facts into stories and producing the show, and then anchoring that show, all while running my own teleprompter with a little foot pedal. It was overwhelming to say the least, but didn't compare to what I was asked to do next -- host the MDA Labor Day Telethon.
There wasn't a script for that and I didn't know a thing about muscular dystrophy. The local MDA office suggested I go up to the MDA Summer Camp and check it out for a day. I did, and I was blown away.
I remember watching the telethon growing up, but connecting with these local families made this cause so much more real.
That first telethon was tough. I cried a lot on camera, and that wasn't pretty. But it didn't matter to the families if mascara was running down my face because the phones were ringing, and that meant support for them.
The more I got to know these families, the more I started looking forward to the telethon every year.
What a wonderful coincidence that when I moved to Phoenix, I landed at Channel 3, the only local station that also airs the telethon. I immediately volunteered to help host.
About six years ago my life took another turn while taking promotional pictures for the telethon with that year's MDA state ambassador. The ambassador was Sierra, a firecracker of a little 9-year-old. She had so much personality, but had never been to summer camp because she was too scared. I told her I'd go with her the next year if she'd go. I've been going as Sierra's counselor for five years now.
I may only see my "camp friends" a couple times a year, but they are a big part of who I am. Their spirits inspire me every day, and their families continue to blow me away with their strength and determination.
These families are watching the telethon, too. They're hoping you will call in. The money will put a smile on their kids’ faces with a special camp that's just for children with disabilities, but it also gives these families hope for the future.
Every year, researchers get closer and closer to finding a cure, and they are continuously testing new drugs and treatments for these diseases. That's important because it helps these kids stay stronger for longer.
As a parent, I'm overjoyed to see my little boy growing up and getting stronger and more independent. The sad reality that I see at camp is that these kids with muscular dystrophy return every year looking weaker. Their spirits are as strong as ever, but instead of doing more and more as they grow up, they are losing muscle strength and their ability to do everyday tasks. It's heartbreaking and I hope you want to help as much as I do.
Please watch this year's MDA Labor Day Telethon on Sunday night and make a donation.
I appreciate it -- but not nearly as much as the people fighting to save their families.