EAST ALTON – When Justin Wilkinson of Rosewood Heights looks at his nephew, he sees the strength, not the disease.
“He’s a really strong kid,” Wilkinson says of 9-year-old Matthew Yates. “You can see he is in pain, and he can’t walk as well as other people, but he tries his best.”
Matthew was the motivation behind Wilkinson’s decision to organize a car show last year to benefit the Muscular Dystrophy Association, the disease young Matthew struggles with each day. The event raised more than $12,000 for the St. Louis branch of the MDA.
Together, the Southern Illinois Camaro Club and the Rosewood Heights Fire Department are bringing the second annual “Make a Muscle, Make a Difference” Car and Bike Show benefit to the Greater Alton area on July 26.
“My nephew, along with my love of old cars, pushed me to meet with the guys in my car club,” Wilkinson, who is the proud owner of both a 1968 Camaro and a 1969 Camaro Z28, said. “It all started to come together from some guys just talking in my garage.”
The event takes place from 8 a.m. until 5 p.m. at Kutter Park, 620 California Ave. in East Alton. Registration for the car and bike show is from 8 a.m. until noon, when the judging begins. “Swag bags” and dash plaques will be given to the first 150 judged, and awards will be presented at 3 p.m.
Entry fees are $20 for judged entrants and $10 for display. The car show will feature 30 classes and 10 specialty trophies, while the bike show will have three classes, all makes welcome.
The family-friendly event will feature games and prizes for children and a special appearance by Batman at noon.
Food and drinks also will be available for purchase.
Mainly a genetic disease, muscular dystrophy dates back to the mid-1800s and affects children in varying degrees of severity. Many children with the disease die in infancy, while others live to adulthood with minimal effects. The disease is characterized by muscle weakness and also can cause muscle spasms, scoliosis, and behavioral, vision, speech and cognitive impairments.
In the case of Justin’s nephew, a rare form of the disease, Schwartz-Jampel syndrome, of which there are less than 100 documented cases, can affect physical appearance.
“His muscles are very tight,” Sara Wilkinson, Matthew’s mother said. “It gives him the appearance that he looks sad, and when we are in public a lot of people will ask him if everything is OK. As a mother, it is hard to watch that happen, but he handles it really well.”
There is no known cure for muscular dystrophy.
“We are very thankful and appreciative that they have chosen us as their charity for the second year in a row,” MDA St. Louis branch Executive Director Kathryn Yarbrough said. “I hear this is one of the biggest car shows in the area, so we are excited about this event.”
Yarbrough says all money raised supports local programs such as the muscular dystrophy clinic at Barnes Jewish Hospital, summer camp for about 70 local children each year, and flu shots for registered families free of charge.
The St. Louis branch serves about 2,500 families locally.
Wilkinson says he has been overwhelmed by the support.
“Partners Insurance and Apex Oil have both been huge sponsors, along with so many River Bend community businesses helping out,” he said. “I am so grateful to the Rosewood Heights Fire Department for its involvement. Sometimes people may not realize what we do in the community, including fund-raisers and CPR classes.”
Proceeds will support the St. Louis area Muscular Dystrophy Association.
For more information, visit www.mdacarandbikeshow.com or call (618) 410-9075.