Surrounded by more than 2,000 of his classmates, Antonius Acre, slid into the Yukon Middle School gymnasium riding on a motorized wheelchair.
The 14-year-old eighth-grade student suffers from a rare form of Muscular Dystrophy. He was diagnosed with the disease in September 2013 and lost his ability to walk about two years ago, said his mother, Shannon.
Friday, during a schoolwide pep assembly, Antonius and his family helped the school kick off MILL Week, which is the district’s annual philanthropic week.
They will be the benefactors of this year’s activities.
What they didn’t know was that the school’s student council already had been raising funds. They were presented with a $1,000 check.
“For us, the sentiment is very nice that there are so many people who want to help him. For him, for us, it about the amount of human beings who are putting the time and effort into making us feel incredibly special,” she said.
Over the next week, schools throughout the district will hold a variety of fundraising activities as part of MILL Week, which stands for Millers Improving Local Lives.
Previously, it was called Wish Week with proceeds raising funds for the Oklahoma Make-A-Wish program.
This year, the schools decided to keep the fundraising efforts local, with all of the proceeds benefiting a Yukon student’s family.
At the middle school, eighth-grade teacher Amber Donaldson said the effort involves not only the students, but the teachers as well.
More than $2,000 had been raised by the teachers before the events began on Friday.
Activities are planned throughout the week.
A final presentation will occur next Friday at the high school.
“I think this is probably the most amazing thing. People learn what he has. It is rare. Only one in 3,500 boys have this disease,” said Shannon Acre.
The goal of this year’s activities is to raise enough money to purchase a handicapped-accessible van for the family.
Right now, they use a car and must lift Antonius into the vehicle. His mother said it takes four people to do that.
In addition, he recently had back surgery to correct a spine curvature. He can no longer be straightened to 90-degrees, she said.
The family is unable to use his motorized wheelchair most of the time. It weighs too much, she said.
“It is hard to get used to the idea that you can’t fix him. For him, it will take his life, and he knows it,” Shannon said.
She said events like the one held Friday are about education.
“The more things people do like this, the more people learn about it. The more information people have on the disease, the more educated they are about how to treat them,” she said.
The disease, known as Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy, is a progressive muscular disease that affects all of the muscles in his body.
Unlike most people, when Antonius’s muscles get damaged, they don’t heal, his mother said.
It also causes the arms, legs and spine to become progressively deformed.
His mother said that Antonius stopped walking two years ago, and it happened quickly.
“One day he was walking and the next he could not,” she said.
Donaldson said that while the students are fundraising for MILL Week, it is not just the students. Anyone can donate by stopping by any of Yukon’s public schools and dropping off funds.
Students at Yukon High School will host a kick-off event on Monday. However, several activities including a 5k and fun run, car show and daddy-daughter dance are planned for Saturday at the high school.
Monday, there will be a spaghetti dinner, silent auction and a community movie. All of those events are at the high school and are open to the public.
In addition, several restaurants plan to donate a portion of their proceeds to the cause.
The restaurants include Chic-fil-a (Tuesday), Five Guys Burgers and Bake Bear (Wednesday), and Canes (Thursday).
For more information, go to millweek2019.com.