Cheerleaders from Papillion-La Vista South, Nebraska are doing more than simply lifting the spirits of their school to support the football team; they are lifting the spirits of a friend they have known since middle school by helping to pay for a wheelchair he needs to attend college next year. Their friend, Derek Caster, has Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD).
Duchenne muscular dystrophy is an inherited disorder that affects one in every 3,600 boys. A defective gene for dystrophin, a protein in the muscle, causes the disorder. Boys with the disease experience muscle weakening that worsens quickly, with the onset around six years of age. The disorder is typically fatal, with most deaths occurring in the early twenties.
“Since my mom’s the coach, it keeps the friendships there,” explained Derek. “It’s not, ‘Oh, we’re cheerleaders now. We’re too cool.'”
How much the girls care for their friend is apparent, as they stop practicing to shout their greetings when Derek enters. Many of the girls have watched his struggle with Duchenne and seen first hand how much the disease has changed his life.
“Many of us have known Derek since he wasn’t even in a wheelchair,” described cheer captain, Marissa Jeffery, through tears. “It’s kind of emotional for many of us.”
Marissa and the other girls are aware of the statistics of the disease. Derek started out walking, then used a scooter, and now a wheelchair. He hopes to go to Bellevue University next year, but to accomplish his goal, he will need a new wheelchair.
“I’ve had this one since 7th grade,” explained Derek. “It’s old and it’s slowly falling apart.”
In the past, the cheerleaders from Papillion-La Vista South have bagged groceries to raise $500 or $600 for items they needed, like uniforms. The girls decided to put their fundraising ability to good use and earned $2,000 to help pay for their friend’s new wheelchair.
“Not everyone was friendly and kind,” said Tammy Caster, Derek’s mom and the squad’s coach. “But they didn’t let that stop them, because they were doing it for Derek. And for me, and that meant a lot to me. Unfortunately, in our society, most of the attention goes to the bullies and the bad kids. But there are good kids out there and this group of girls, these squads, are proof there are good kids out there.”
“It’s just awesome that people care about me,” said Derek. “Makes me feel good about myself.”
Not to be outdone, Bellevue University also recently raised an additional $1,800 for Derek’s wheelchair with their Bellevue Zombie Walk in November.
Currently, Derek uses a regular powerchair, but as his disease progresses, he will need more advanced technology. A new wheelchair to accommodate his DMD will cost $30,000 and most of that will be covered by insurance. Even after the insurance coverage, however, Derek’s family will have to pay between $9,000 and $12,000 for the copay on the new chair.
Anyone wishing to help his family afford the out-of-pocket expenses for the new wheelchair, the “Derek Caster Fund” has been established at American National Bank in Papillion, Nebraska and you can call the bank at 402-339-3935 for more information on how to donate.
We love the way this community has come together for Derek. Have you heard of some great fundraisers for mobility needs and medical expenses in your area?