A musician's decades-long battle with the fear of inheriting his dad's incurable disease.
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Muscular Dystrophy Association

There are certain moments in our lives that are too important not to share with the people we love.

Singer-songwriter Eric Hutchinson is having one of those moments.


Photo by Ralph Arvesen/Flickr.

Hutchinson and his band recently embarked on a tour to promote his new album, which he was proud to have independently produced. They are set to perform in Hutchinson's home state of Maryland at Merriweather Post Pavilion, an over 19,000-seat outdoor amphitheater that has hosted some of the most famed musicians in modern history.

This is one show Hutchinson doesn't want his family to miss. And he's especially excited for his dad to see him on the historic stage. But getting him there requires more than a VIP pass.

Before Hutchinson was big enough to pick up a guitar, his dad was diagnosed with an adult-onset form of muscular dystrophy (MD).

Photo from Eric Hutchinson, used with permission.

In the decades that followed, the disease progressively took away his father's control of his own body.

Though Hutchinson was too young to fully grasp the situation at the time, as his father's condition progressed, a frightening picture came slowly into focus.

"I don’t remember when I first found out about my dad’s disease, but I just knew that something was different," he said. "But the older I got, the more I understood, and the more I worried."

Then, in college, he learned more about MD that gave him concern for his own future.

Most muscular dystrophies are genetic. Hutchinson had a 50% chance of inheriting the gene flaw that caused his father’s MD.

"When am I going to wake up and feel something?" he wondered. "When my hands were tired, I worried that they were symptoms."

And as his creative interests became a full-time music career, he had a hard time facing the possibility that it could be taken away so prematurely.


"I’m a musician, and I rely on my hands to perform," he said. "So it wasn't just, 'Am I going to lose the ability to handle my day-to-day.' It was also, 'Am I going to lose the ability to do my job?'"

As his motor skills deteriorated, Hutchinson’s father had to let go of a lot of his passions. But he never stopped challenging himself.

“To my dad's amazing credit, he was always trying to do as much as possible and not allow it to limit him,” said Hutchinson.

Photo from Eric Hutchinson, used with permission.

When it would have been easy to withdraw, his dad went headfirst into parts unknown. MD made his woodworking difficult and dangerous, but he could still use a computer. So he earned a master’s degree and started a new career in web design.

Though he could no longer hold a guitar chord, he still had a voice, so he joined his synagogue choir. And, says Hutchinson, he walked for as long as his body would allow, falling often, but getting up just as many times.

While his father’s illness started as a fearful shadow to run from, his chosen life gave Hutchinson the courage to get tested.

In the winter of 2015, the day before he began recording his new album, Hutchinson met with a neurologist to give blood samples for the test. In a matter of weeks, he’d finally have the answer he’d been avoiding.

“I found my mind drifting while recording,” Hutchinson wrote in a personal essay once his work in the studio was done. “The sessions were colored by the anxiety that at any moment the doctor could be calling with results that could change my life.”

But, like his father, he chose to persevere. “I put one foot in front of the other, channeled the emotion into the songs, and kept talking to my therapist who helped me navigate it all. Slowly, I got stronger.”

Photo from Eric Hutchinson, used with permission.

Two days after he finished recording his album, he got a call from his doctor. Hutchinson tested negative for the genetic mutation for MD. But what he thought would be some of the most relieving news of his life turned out to be more bittersweet.

"I expected to have this celebratory, washing over me with elation. Of course it was a relief, but MD was still a part of my family, so I had a lot of complicated feelings around it."

For Hutchinson, an end to his fear of MD marked the beginning of a new mission to support the MD community. He's starting by simply talking about the disease.

This is something new for him, as his family tended to avoid open conversation about MD.

"It was like a secret I had to keep, which felt very isolating. So I’m proud of the fact that we’re having this conversation right now," he said. "Being able to talk about it takes away some of the fear. I can look at it more clinically and understand it for what it is."

And with his upcoming tour, he’s inviting his fans into the conversation through his music and a heartfelt open letter that speaks to his personal journey.

Photo by Ralph Arvesen/Flickr.

Hutchinson joins a long list of entertainers in that effort, dating back to 1951 with Jerry Lewis and Dean Martin’s first televised appeal for viewers to support the Muscular Dystrophy Association on “The Colgate Comedy Hour.”

While a cure is yet to be discovered, MD research has led to potentially game-changing developments.

Among them are advancements in physical therapy, experimental drugs that could help control MD symptoms and gene editing using revolutionary CRISPR technology.

Image by Ernesto del Aguila III, NHGRI/Wikimedia Commons.

We can see the value of all that work in recent stories like those of 18-year-old Latondra Chappell, a teen with MD who worked hard in physical therapy to get out of her wheelchair and walk the stage at graduation; 23-year-old Jon Piacentino, an aspiring scientist who has benefited hugely from experimental MD drug treatment; and 14-year-old Devin Argall, who’s participating in an MD drug clinical trial and was named a "goodwill ambassador" in the state of Wisconsin for his advocacy.

For the first time in years, Hutchinson feels he's on the right emotional bearing, and he wants to spread good along the way.

Connecting with people through music is one way he wants to do that. And if he ever veers off course, he knows just where to look to get back on track:

"I reflect on my dad. I got to see his resolve and endless determination up close. He fell, but he got up. Now I fall, but I get up."

As for the big show in Maryland, Hutchinson and his manager were making door-to-door arrangements and ensuring there was wheelchair access every step of the way.

Because beyond his son's music success, hearing his newfound voice on MD — and on such a massive stage — would be too proud a moment for Hutchinson's dad to miss.

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This year more than ever, many families are anticipating an empty dinner table. Shawn Kaplan lived this experience when his father passed away, leaving his mother who struggled to provide food for her two children. Shawn is now a dedicated volunteer and donor with Second Harvest Food Bank in Middle Tennessee and encourages everyone to give back this holiday season with Amazon.

Watch the full story:

Over one million people in Tennessee are at risk of hunger every day. And since the outbreak of COVID-19, Second Harvest has seen a 50% increase in need for their services. That's why Amazon is Delivering Smiles and giving back this holiday season by fulfilling hundreds of AmazonSmile Charity Lists, donating essential pantry and food items to help organizations like Second Harvest to feed those hit the hardest this year.

Visit AmazonSmile Charity Lists to donate directly to a local food bank or charity in your community, or simply shop smile.amazon.com and Amazon will donate a portion of the purchase price of eligible products to your selected charity.

Courtesy of Macy's

Brantley and his snowman

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"Would you like to build a snowman?" If you asked five-year-old Brantley from Texas this question, the answer would be a resounding "Yes!" While it may sound like a simple dream, since Texas doesn't usually see much snow, it seemed like a lofty one for him, even more so because Brantley has a congenital heart disease.

On Dec. 11, 2019, however, the real Macy's Santa and his two elves teamed up with Make-A-Wish to surprise Brantley and his family on his way to Colorado where there was plenty of snow for him to build his very own snowman, fulfilling his wish as part of the Macy's Believe campaign. After a joy-filled plane ride where every passenger got gift bags from Macy's, the family arrived in Breckenridge, Colorado where Santa and his elves helped Brantley build a snowman.

Brantley, Brantley's mom, and Santa marveling at their snowmanAll photos courtesy of Macy's

Brantley, who according to his mom had never actually seen snow, was blown away by the experience.

"Well, I had to build a snowman because snowmen are my favorite," Brantley said in an interview with Summit Daily. "All of it was my favorite part."

This is just one example of the more than 330,000 wishes the nonprofit Make-A-Wish have fulfilled to bring joy to children fighting critical illnesses since its founding 40 years ago. Even though many of the children that Make-A-Wish grants wishes for manage or overcome their illnesses, they often face months, if not years of doctor's visits, hospital stays and uncomfortable treatments. The nonprofit helps these children and their families replace fear with confidence, sadness with joy and anxiety with hope.

It's hardly an outlandish notion — research shows that a wish come true can help increase these children's resiliency and improve their quality of life. Brantley is a prime example.

"This couldn't have come at a better time because we see all the hardships that we went through last year," Brantley's mom Brandi told Summit Daily.

Brantley playing with snowballs

Now more than ever, kids with critical illnesses need hope. Since they're particularly vulnerable to disease, they and their families have had to isolate even more during the pandemic and avoid the people they love most and many of the activities that recharge them. That's why Make-A-Wish is doing everything it can to fulfill wishes in spite of the unprecedented obstacles.

That's where you come in. Macy's has raised over $132 million for Make-A-Wish, and helped grant more than 15,500 wishes since their partnership began in 2003, but they couldn't have done that without the support of everyday people. The crux of that support comes from Macy's Believe Campaign — the longstanding holiday fundraising effort where for every letter to Santa that's written online at Macys.com or dropped off safely at the red Believe mailbox at their stores, Macy's will donate $1 to Make-A-Wish, up to $1 million. New this year, National Believe Day will be expanded to National Believe Week and will provide customers the opportunity to double their donations ($2 per letter, up to an additional $1 million) for a full week from Sunday, Nov. 29 through Saturday, Dec. 5.

There are more ways to support Make-A-Wish besides letter-writing too. If you purchase a $4 Believe bracelet, $2 of each bracelet will be donated to Make-A-Wish through Dec. 31. And for families who are all about the holiday PJs, on Giving Tuesday (Dec. 1), 20 percent of the purchase price of select family pajamas will benefit Make-A-Wish.

Elizabeth living out her wish of being a fashion designer

Additionally, this year's campaign features 6-year-old Elizabeth, a Make-A-Wish child diagnosed with leukemia, whose wish to design a dress recently came true. Thanks to the style experts at Macy's Fashion Office and I.N.C. International Concepts, only at Macy's, Elizabeth had the opportunity to design a colorful floral maxi dress. Elizabeth's exclusive design is now available online at Macys.com and in select Macy's stores. In the spirit of giving back this holiday season, 20 percent of the purchase price of Elizabeth's dress (through Dec. 31) will benefit Make-A-Wish.You can also donate directly to Make-A-Wish via Macy's website.

This holiday season may be a tough one this year, but you can bring joy to children fighting critical illnesses by delivering hope for their wishes to come true.

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A lot of people here are like family to me," Michelle says about Bread for the City — a community nonprofit located in Washington DC that provides local residents with food, clothing, health care, social advocacy, and legal services. And since the pandemic began, the need to support organizations like Bread for the City is greater than ever, which is why Amazon is Delivering Smiles to local charities across the country this holiday season.

Watch the full story:

Amazon is giving back by fulfilling hundreds of AmazonSmile Charity Lists, and donating essential pantry and food items to help organizations like Bread for the City provide to those disproportionately impacted this year.

Visit AmazonSmile Charity Lists to donate directly to a local charity in your community, or simply shop smile.amazon.com and Amazon will donate a portion of the purchase price of eligible products to your charity of choice.
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