Monday, April 26, 2010

Local Family Using Peanut Butter Sales To Fight Muscular Dystrophy

A Pittsburgh-area family is trying to spread the word about a devastating disease that affects one out of every 3,500 boys, including one very determined 22-year-old.

“At the age of 5, we took my son Ryan to Children’s Hospital because he had flat feet,” Ty Ballou told Channel 11. “After we met with the doctor, unfortunately we found out he had an incurable disease.”

Ryan Ballou was born with Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy (DMD), a degenerative muscle disorder that affects all muscles within thebody.

Since there is no cure, much of the effort has been on how to extend life.

“Living with muscular dystrophy is hard,” Ryan said. “It has its challenges. There’s a lot of work that goes into just doing your everyday normal tasks. From getting a drink, to getting something to eat, it just seems like it’s kind of overwhelming at times and I have my own struggles with that. But like I said, there’s really no other way around it. You just have to get through it and I’m just glad I have the support of my family.”

Even though he uses a wheelchair and has limited use of his arms, Ryan has been lucky. At age 22, he’s outlived most of the early estimates of life expectancy.

This is due to a combination of drugs that keeps his heart strong. But these are drugs whose benefits are not fully understood.

For the past three years, Ryan has participated in research at Ohio State University that studies the success of these drugs through the use of MRIs. The research is costly and it is not covered by insurance.

BallouSkies, a charity created by Ty, was conceived to help raise money for those who can’t afford to participate in this research-- research that could help extend their lives.

“The goal of BallouSkies is to raise a lot of awareness for muscular dystrophy and raise money for research,” Ty said.

One of the ways they do this is through the BallouSkies Triathlon Team. It’s a group of dedicated athletes who compete in an intense schedule of swimming, biking and running to benefit the cause.

“I think about hard things I might have going on during the day, and then I go right to Ryan. He just continues to impress me with how positive he is and just inspiring people and being there for people and showing people they really can make a difference. He’s my hero,” said team member Kim Schwabenbauer.

“There comes a time in every race where I just think I cannot take one more step or I can not take one more stroke of the swim or one more pedal of the bike. You know I look down and I think of BallouSkies and I think of Ryan and the struggle he’s going through and anyone with muscular dystrophy and I just feel so blessed and so lucky to be able to take a step that I really dig deep and push myself to limits,” said team member Jocelyn Cornman.

“Ryan is by far the strongest person that I know,” said his sister, Merett Ballou. “He has the heart to get through anything. I don’t know any 22-year-old or anybody young or old who has the courage and the strength to get up every single day and get through the obstacles that he’s able to overcome.”

You can help by sponsoring a team member. Race schedules are posted on the BallouSkies Web site and you can follow their progress throughout the year.

You can also help when you purchase BallouSkies peanut butter. One hundred percent of the proceeds from this all-natural product will help support the research at Ohio State. It can be purchased online or at any Giant Eagle store.

“This is something that is much greater than just BallouSkies. It’s about helping boys all over the world to overcome this disease, to live longer. It’s about raising awareness, it’s about raising money. It’s about people getting involved and people getting excited about trying to help somebody less fortunate than them,” Merett said.

“I just hope that people will realize how important it is, how passionate I am about it, my family is, obviously with this charity and all of our good friends. I just want everyone to realize how important this research can be and how many people it can actually help. It could help MD, any other array of diseases and disorders. It can help a lot. So I feel like it’s very important and I just want everyone to realize that with this research, so many doors can be opened, not just for muscular dystrophy,” Ryan said.

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