Baseball tournament to benefit MDA

  • Stacey Epps and her son Dylan are sponsoring a baseball tournament fundraiser on August 12 to benefit the Muscular Dystrophy Association. Dylan was diagnosed with the disease in 2014 when he was nine years old.

Dylan Epps is hoping to hit a homerun in the fight against muscular dystrophy.

The 12-year-old was diagnosed in 2014 with the genetic, degenerative disease that primarily affects voluntary muscles. However, he did not let the diagnosis stop him from playing baseball, which he’s played the past nine years through the Barnwell Baseball Softball Association.

“I’ve learned to not take stuff for granted,” said Epps, who plays first base and pitcher. “I may not run the fastest, but I have a lot of tricks as a pitcher and I can hit the ball. Thank God for the abilities that I do have.”

The 2017 recipient of the BBSA’s J.J. Gross Award for good sportsmanship also wants to give hope, strength and a cure to others impacted by the disease. That’s why he and his mother, Stacey Epps, are sponsoring a one-day double elimination baseball tournament fundraiser to benefit the Muscular Dystrophy Association on Saturday, August 12 at 8 a.m. at the Lemon Park Sports Complex in Barnwell.

Teams of 10-12 players under the age of 13 are encouraged to sign up and pay the $250 entry fee before the August 1 deadline. There will be three divisions: 8 and under, 10 and under and 12 and under. Players can play in same age group as last season even if they have had a birthday since then.

There are nine forms of muscular dystrophy, but Epps has one called Becker muscular dystrophy (BMD), which is a variant of Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD). The two forms are similar, but the Becker form “allows the voluntary muscles to function better than they do” with DMD. However, the heart muscle can be affected similarly in both forms, according to the Muscular Dystrophy Association’s website.

The onset of BMD typically occurs in late childhood or adolescence as it did with Epps. “The course is slower and less predictable than that of DMD. Generalized weakness first affects muscles of the hips, pelvic area, thighs and shoulders. Calves are often enlarged. There can be significant heart involvement,” according to a list of symptoms of BMD at www.mda.org.

Epps said he experiences several symptoms, including swollen calves and tightening muscles which are painful. This affects how he walks and runs, which has also led to rude comments from classmates who do not understand the disease.

He recently went to a muscular dystrophy clinic in Florida for annual tests, such as physical therapy and neuromuscular evaluation. He also goes to MUSC in Charleston for sleep studies, stress tests, EKGs and other tests. He attributes his athleticism and a healthy diet, which he must maintain due to also having celiac disease, to helping him stay healthier than some who are affected by muscular dystrophy.

Muscular dystrophy affects Epps physically, but it does not weaken his spirit.

“I told her ‘Don’t worry about it because we’re in God’s hands,’” said Epps recalling what he told his mother after the diagnosis.

“I have learned to have the child-like faith that my son had at the age of nine when he was told that he has muscular dystrophy which could lead to the need for a wheelchair and the assistance of a ventilator to breathe,” said Stacey Epps. She said she loves to watch Dylan play the sport he has a passion for. She and her father Barry have coached Dylan for several years.

She encourages others who are going through tough times to have the same resolve and outlook as her son.

“No matter what bad news or problem you face, have faith and focus on God and not the circumstance. Even if God chooses not to fix the problem, God will never leave or forsake you and God will be there every step of the way and carry you if need be. Never give up,” she said.

Philippians 4:13 has been a constant reminder of that for her. It states: “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”

Dylan, who turns 13 in August, is looking forward to playing in the tournament. He and his mother will also participate in the MDA Muscle Walk in Charleston on August 26. They are currently raising money for their team, Dylan’s Dynamite Dynasty, and welcome people to donate.

To sign up for the tournament or make a donation, call Stacey Epps at (803) 571-0222. Donations can also be made online at www2.mda.org/site/TR/MuscleWalk/MuscleWalk2017-National?px=3349002&pg=personal&fr_id=23495.