JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- It's a Labor Day weekend tradition. The MDA Show of Strength televised benefit concert airs this Sunday, August 31 at 9 p.m. on ABC 25 to raise money for the Muscular Dystrophy Association.
Wednesday night local families supported by the MDA gathered alongside sponsors and volunteers at Latitude 30 in Jacksonville for a sneak peek at the telethon.
Brandon Owens, 8, and his family were there and are sharing their story of just how much the MDA helps them.
"It's so fun. You will never want to leave. You can stay there for 10 years and never miss your parents and never want to leave," said Owens.
He smiles ear to ear when he talks about his experience at MDA Summer Camp.
"He's a total mamma's boy and every time I go to get him he grabs on to one of his volunteers and latches, 'I don't want to go home. I don't want to go home,'" said Owen's mother, Amber Parrish. "Keep me, which makes me very sad but happy at same time."
Parrish's son was born with a debilitating, life-shortening, degenerative neuro-muscular disorder.
"Basically his brain can't tell his muscles what to do so he's losing the ability to control his muscles slowly. His ankles are starting to turn in and he's having to use a walker to walk now," explained Parrish.
His family is one of more than a thousand families in Northeast Florida and Southeast Georgia served by the local MDA.
"All of the money that is raised local stays local. So we are putting that money back into our community. Our local clinic directors know our families. They see our kids at camp. It's people who live in their own backyard," said Lauren Donoho, Healthcare Services Coordinator at MDA.
It costs the MDA $800 to send one child to summer camp for a week, money Parrish says it well spent. It's not just summer camp, MDA also funds research and helps her family with Brandon's medical expenses and more.
"I can pick up the phone at 3 o'clock in the morning and call someone from MDA and just get some guidance or even just an over the phone hug when things get hard so those kind of things make a huge difference in our lives," said Parrish.
So here's how you can help children like Brandon, and adults too served by the MDA. First Coast News Anchor Heather Crawford, Executive Producer Noel LaToure and News Operations Coordinator Henrietta Stewart are taking part in the MDA Lock-Up in September. The "jailbirds" have to raise $3200 to get out of "jail". That's how much it costs the MDA to provide services for one family for an entire year. You can donate right now by clicking on this link.