On Saturday, September 29, Carter Ramkissoon became a member of the Azusa Pacific University football team. Loyal fans who attended the game may have been surprised to see a new face on the sideline–especially since Carter is only 8 years old.
So what was an 8-year-old boy doing on the field at an NCAA football game? When he was three, Carter was diagnosed with Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy (DMD). DMD is caused by a defect in the gene that sustains healthy muscles. Carter knows that playing football is not an option for him, but thanks to a relationship between APU and Coach to Cure MD, he was able to experience football in a way he never could on his own.
The American Football Coaches Association (AFCA) has partnered with Coach to Cure MD since 2008. According to the program’s website, the AFCA was particularly attracted to Coach to Cure MD “because of the unique parallels between Duchenne, a disorder which robs young men of precious muscle strength, and college football, a game where young men are at the peak of their muscle strength.”
Rhiannon Ramkissoon, Carter’s mother, shared with the team that although Carter’s condition is progressing slowly, he still fights through pain when he tries to keep up with friends, and he relies on a wheelchair for long distances. By the time he gets to college, he may lose his ability to walk completely. On this night though, Carter walked taller than anyone else–literally!
“[Carter] spent the fourth quarter with the best view, on the shoulders of the biggest guy out there [senior Luke Marquardt]. That alone brought tears to my eyes,” said Rhiannon. “You all made him feel like a true part of the team this weekend, like he was just one of the guys. We cannot thank you enough for that!”
Of course, Carter was made aware of certain expectations that go along with becoming a member of the APU football team. Sophomore Ed Dillihunt made that clear when he gave Carter a wristband with the school motto, God First written on it.
“He said it’s going to take a few years before he grows into it but he’ll be very careful that it doesn’t fall off or get lost before that,” said Rhiannon, emphasizing that Carter has no intention of taking the wristband off any time soon. “I cannot say enough positive things about the [APU football] program,” she added. “We are APU fans for life!”
Carter and his family will be attending APU’s final three home games. For those interested in learning more about Coach to Cure MD, visit their website at coachtocuremd.org.