EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

July 12, 2013

Off the sidelines, on to the field

By Mike LaBella

---- — HAVERHILL — Ten-year-old Jake Marrazzo has been on the sidelines of sporting events, watching but not participating. The Duchenne muscular dystrophy he was diagnosed with just days before his eighth birthday makes walking a challenge and prevents him from playing in sports like other kids can. But not this weekend.

Jake, who lives in Hudson, Mass., with his family, is coming to Kimball Farm on East Broadway. His parents, John and Sheryl Marrazzo say he is eager to compete in the 5K Foam Fest taking place there this weekend. The family-friendly event features a course dotted with various inflatable obstacles along with foam, mud and water. John Marrazzo says his son will run as far as his legs will carry him, while he and his wife hold his hands, and when Jake can’t go any further he’ll carry him on his back until they reach the finish line.

“We contacted the organization, explained Jake’s situation and that we were going to run with him as much as he can, then piggy-back him the rest of the way to allow Jake to feel a sense of accomplishment that most kids with DMD cannot feel,” John Marrazzo said. “I actually offered to push Jake in a wheelchair for the race, but he wants to run with our help.”

The 5K Foam Fest is a two-day event with Jake Marrazzo, his parents and his older sister competing on Sunday morning.

“Jake can’t participate in sports and is always on the sidelines watching,” his father said. “Getting a T-shirt from this event will make him feel really good about doing something he typically could not do.”

According to the Muscular Dystrophy Association, Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD) is a genetic disorder characterized by rapidly progressive muscle degeneration and weakness. It is one of nine types of muscular dystrophy and primarily affects boys, but in rare cases it can affect girls.

DMD is caused by an absence of dystrophin, a protein that helps keep muscle cells intact.

John Marrazzo says his son’s interest in running an obstacle course was piqued last month when he returned home after competing in the Tough Mudder event on June 1 at Gunstock Mountain Resort in New Hampshire. The 10- to 12-mile obstacle course is designed to test strength, stamina and mental grit and raises money for the Wounded Warrior Project. John Marrazzo said he participated in the event for fun.

“I ran with my 23-year-old son, my brother-in-law and our son-in-law and when we got home Jake listened to us tell the story about the event,” John Marrazzo said. “Jake was so excited and inspired that he told Sheryl and I that he wanted to run something like that. We found the 5K Foam Fest in Haverhill.”

John Marrazzo said he and his wife have been reviewing the course at Kimball Farm with their son Jake to help prepare him for what they expect to encounter, including a 50-foot inflatable slide. They told Jake he had the option of trying to slide down it, or bypass it.

Although the 5K Foam Fest raises money for a charity, John Marrazzo says his family is raising money through pledges for Parent Project Muscular Dystrophy, an organization committed to ending Duchenne.

Jakes family created a Website, www.4JakesSake.com where they post news about Jake and their fundraising efforts.