The Covingtons are a family of five from Texas, tackling the pandemic together with grace and humor. Parents Erica and Bryan have kept their family at home, with Erica homeschooling all three of their children: Matthew, 14, Natalia, 10, and Nicholas, 8. As a family, they like to keep busy and are managing to still have lots of fun together, while staying involved with school virtually.
When their oldest son, Matthew, was born with Congenital Diaphragmatic Hernia, Erica and Bryan were told that he would not make it. But even at such a young age, Matthew was a fighter. Defying all odds, he survived a major repair surgery.
During his toddlerhood, Matthew had delays in his development and was diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder at the age of three. In preschool, his teacher pointed out that he hardly ran and had difficulty climbing. They scheduled an appointment with Matthew’s doctor who suggested physical therapy.
In 2012, Matthew began struggling even more to walk and to stand for long periods of time, leading to him falling often and asking to be carried during long walks. Erica and Bryan scheduled an appointment with a neurologist in 2014. They were referred to a muscle specialist, who confirmed the diagnosis–Duchenne muscular dystrophy.
“The Duchenne diagnosis took us off guard. All three of our children have autism and this news came at the same time as our daughter’s autism diagnosis,” said Erica. “Autism is hard. But Duchenne is a whole different ball game.”
As Matthew progressed to full-time use of a power chair for mobility, his parents had the difficult task of getting him to and from school without an accessible vehicle.
“Since we had no way of transporting his chair, he would have to leave it at school and we could only take it home for long breaks,” said mom, Erica. “On breaks, I wanted him to have that independence so I would physically sit in his power chair and drive it back home from his school.”
The Covington family applied to Jett Foundation’s Jett Giving Fund–a program that helps families impacted by Duchenne obtain emergency assistance and accessibility equipment. Health insurance often doesn’t–or simply refuses to–cover all specialized medical and accessibility equipment, such as scooters, shower chairs, ramps, rotational beds, accessible vans, and other essential items needed by those fighting Duchenne. Families in the program raise at least half the funds needed for a specific item, and Jett Foundation covers the remaining costs and works with vendors to help bring families their much-needed equipment.
The family set to work on raising their half: $21,000. Soon after their acceptance into the program, the pandemic hit making their local fundraising efforts more challenging.
That is where Kindness Over Muscular Dystrophy (KOMD) stepped in. KOMD was founded by parents Jess and Chris Curran. Their son Conner’s initial Duchenne diagnosis brought them to their knees, but they found the strength to take action, founding KOMD, with hopes to support other families and fund Duchenne research.
“We know that so many Duchenne families struggle with overwhelming financial burdens,” said Chris. “So, we feel it’s important to reach out to organizations such as Jett Foundation to help ease those burdens.”
KOMD generously donated $10,000 to help the Covingtons reach their fundraising goal. Jett Foundation covered the remaining costs of the vehicle and coordinated its delivery to the family amidst the global pandemic.
“Erica’s resolve to do everything she can to help her son resonated with us,” said Chris. “This family not only has a child, Matthew, who is autistic with Duchenne but they also have two other children with autism. Yet, they describe themselves as a busy but super fun family. They approach life with a healthy dose of humor and we are super impressed by the family’s spirit!”
While the pandemic has prevented the family from major adventures, Erica says their new van has made it possible for them to enjoy local trips and break up their homeschool routine.
“Jett Foundation has been the biggest blessing to us. The van has been one of our little happy things when we want to escape. It’s an easy way for us to get the kids in the van and go for a little drive. Matthew just wheels himself in there and everyone is comfortable and safe. It fits our family perfectly and we are beyond thankful.”
Started in 2017, Jett Giving Fund has helped transform the lives of countless families across the country with over $1.7 million worth of accessible equipment and emergency assistance thanks to the generous support of individual donors, local communities, and major sponsors including Kindness Over Muscular Dystrophy, Cure Dale’s Duchenne and Sarepta Therapeutics.
You can help us to support more families through the Jett Giving Fund. Donate today or learn more about becoming a sponsor by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.