Photo by Diane Cox
Sara Wilkinson stands by her son Matthew with a fire truck at the Rosewood Heights Fire Department next to Capt. Justin Wilkinson’s Camaro. The Make a Muscle, Make a Difference car show will be 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, June 13, at Kutter Park in East Alton.
EAST ALTON — When you think of the word “muscle,” the things that come to mind might be a wrestler you’ve seen on TV or perhaps a high-powered car. The last thing to enter your thoughts might be a challenging disease known as muscular dystrophy.
Matthew Yates, a 10-year-old fourth-grader at Central School in Roxana, will tell you he’s different and knows his own limits, but it doesn’t stop him from being a kid.
“I know it (muscular dystrophy) does limit me,” Yates said. “If I try to run with my brother, my legs get stiff. But I am playing rec league baseball this summer and I also go to a summer camp every year for kids like me.”
The reality of muscular dystrophy hits close to home for Rosewood Heights Fire Capt. Justin Wilkinson, simply known as Uncle Justin to Matthew. Wilkinson’s nephew has been the inspiration for Make a Muscle, Make a Difference, a car show put together in partnership with the fire department and the Southern Illinois Camaro Club.
Justin’s love for family, fire department and his two Camaros is being combined to raise funds and awareness for MDA through the third annual car show from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, June 13, at Kutter Park in East Alton.
The Camaro club started with just three members and has grown to approximately 240.
“Two friends from high school and I started the club,” club President Joey Westfall said. “I never thought it would get this big. Justin was one our first members. He has definitely been the driving force behind the car show. We knew we wanted to do a car show and we wanted to do it for a good cause. Justin suggested we raise money for the MDA. Matthew is a great young man and I could not think of a better cause to do it for. With the help from the Rosewood Heights Fire Department and our SICC members, it is an awesome day for an awesome cause.”
The International Association of Fire Fighters is the largest national sponsor of the Muscular Dystrophy Association. The RHFD has averaged roughly $1,000 to $3,000 annually for the MDA, until the car show began in 2013. The first two years of the Camaro club and the fire department joining forces to raise money for the MDA, the car show has raised more than $22,000 for local families.
“Every little bit helps,” Sara said. “Every dollar, every cent — it all adds up. We know first hand how the MDA helps families. The MDA helps pay co-pays; they’ve provided two different wheelchairs for long distances. Research is the big thing. We went to the doctor two weeks ago and there is a new medication they hope to try with Matthew. We’re hoping it will really help him more than the medication he’s on now to get his muscles to loosen.”
The car show has become a qualifying event for the 2015 Best of the Best invitational. Some 200 cars nationwide will be given an invitation to compete in the highly sought-after Camaro competition. Registration is from 8 a.m. with judging starting at noon. Awards will be presented at 3 p.m.
“The community support has been amazing,” Sara said. “Knowing so many people care and will come together to volunteer and work, so many do what they can to help the MDA. It’s appreciated and just has us in awe.”
For information, visit www.mdacarandbikeshow.com. Apex Oil in St. Louis and Partners Insurance of Bethalto are two leading sponsors of the event.