With the help of her mother, 11-year-old Willow Smith climbed into the front seat of a fire engine Tuesday at Bryan County Fire Department’s Station 9 in South Bryan as firefighters and her family celebrated Willow’s induction as an honorary member of the department.
But unlike most 11-year-olds, Willow had to have assistance because she has a form of muscular dystrophy called congenital myopathy, a disease that results from genetic defects in muscle development.
Normally Willow is in a wheelchair or wears leg braces, but she had neither Tuesday as she explored every aspect of the fire engine alongside her brothers and sister.
Willow is the daughter of Matt and Dawn Smith of Richmond Hill, who moved here about a year ago from Texas. Dawn Smith said they were totally surprised when they found out the fire department wanted to add Willow as an honorary member.
“It is very nice and we’re honored to have something special just for her,” Smith said. “She doesn’t get to do a whole lot, so it’s nice for her to feel integrated into the community.”
Bryan County firefighters met Willow earlier this month at the Muscular Dystrophy Association’s (MDA) Camp New Ebenezer in Rincon. Willow was a first-time camper and stood out to Capt. Asa Clay, who helped out at the camp by playing Santa for a day.
The five-day overnight camp allows children with muscular dystrophy to participate in activities they normally wouldn’t be able to, according to Coleen Harvey, fundraising coordinator for MDA.
Harvey said the firefighters help raise money through fundraisers, like Bryan County’s Fill the Boot Drive, that help send children with muscular dystrophy to the camp in Rincon each year. Harvey said it costs about $800 per child to attend the camp.
The Bryan County Fire Department will hold its annual Fill the Boot Drive around 10 a.m. Saturday at Publix, Food Lion and Kroger in Richmond Hill.
Read more in the July 30 edition of the News.