For children with muscular dystrophy, there’s no better duo to have on your side than Western Hockey League Iron Man Justin Feser and his trusty sidekick, Mitch Topping.
The Tri-City Americans players, both from Red Deer, Alberta, have raised money for the Muscular Dystrophy Association in the Tri-Cities all season. Both players are donating $10 from their own pockets for each Americans home win, and the team will match their donation.
There also have been donation buckets at each Tri-City home game for fans to add to the pot. Entering tonight’s final regular-season home game against the Spokane Chiefs, the Making Awareness a Top Priority to Fes Out Muscular Dystrophy campaign has raised $6,244, far exceeding the players’ goal.
“Our original goal was $2,500,” said Topping, who noted the total to date does not include his, Feser’s or the team’s contributions. “The response from the fans has been unbelievable. Me and Justin, on behalf of the MDA, want to thank the fans.”
Muscular dystrophy is a group of inherited disorders involving muscle weakness and loss of muscle tissue, which worsens over time, according to the U.S. National Library of Medicine.
Symptoms usually start between ages 2 and 6. By age 10 or 12, children with MD often need to use a wheelchair.
While there is no known cure for the various muscular dystrophies, which affect more than a million Americans, medications and therapy can slow the disease.
Feser, a forward, and Topping, a defenseman, have spent time with children with MD this season, and are moved by their spirit.
“The disease affects each kid in their way,” Topping said. “We work with the kids and see the smiles on their faces. They deal with the disease every day, and they still laugh and smile. This (walking boot on his foot) is the biggest inconvenience in my life right now. They would trade everything for just that.”
While Feser has been with the Americans for five seasons, Topping is in his second, coming over in a trade from Chilliwack as the team moved to Victoria.
In a short amount of time in the Tri-Cities, Topping has had his hands in several projects, including Habitat for Humanity and visits to schools and hospitals.
“My mom (Kathy) suggested I do something since I don’t go to school,” Topping said. “I have a lot of spare time. I hope to continue this next year. It has been a blessing in my life.”
Tonight is the team’s fifth annual Go Green for MDA Night. There will be T-shirt sales, MDA paper shamrocks, silent auctions and more. The money raised will benefit the local MDA chapter. In four years, $38,741 has been raised. The money is not part of Topping and Feser’s charity.
“It’s very important that the team is involved in the community,” Americans general manager Bob Tory said. “The players show initiative and creativity getting involved with different causes. They make the quality of life in our region better. You receive more back in return being involved — much more than you give.”
The Americans are 1-3 on MDA night, with all games against Spokane. Tri-City’s only win was March 19, 2011.
The MDA is one of many charities the Americans have helped this season. The team also has donated $17,758 to nonprofit organizations in the form of tickets, merchandise and autographed items. The Breast Cancer Awareness Night on Feb. 22 raised $22,824.
The Americans have helped raise more than $100,000 overall this season.w Annie Fowler: 582-1574; email@example.com; Twitter: @tchicequeen