President Wight 'arrested' for MDA

20131107MDA Lock Up (Tyler Brown)
(Photo by Tyler Brown) Weber State University President Charles Wight got behind bars at the Ogden Union Station, where he was locked up for the Muscular Dystrophy Association’s annual fundraiser.

Airmen from Hill Air Force Base came to Weber State University President Charles Wight’s office Thursday morning to arrest him. He was then taken to the Ogden Union Station to await bail in an effort to raise funds for muscular dystrophy.

The Muscular Dystrophy Association’s Utah chapter holds an annual lockup where local business professionals are volunteered to be arrested and held until their bail of $2,400 is reached.

“We pick them up and arrest them and bring them to jail, and they help us raise bail for MDA,” said Keisha Salazar, the fundraising coordinator for the Utah chapter of MDA. “All the money stays locally to help fund our MDA summer camp, our services at our University of Utah clinic, as well as our wheelchair program. It goes to help the 1,300 families we have in Utah suffering from muscular dystrophy.”

Most of the 43 diseases are terminal, and MDA funds go to research and preliminary testing to help find cures and treatments for the problems that come from progressive muscle mass loss, but at this time there are no cures. The MDA clinic at the U of U provides neurologists the means to monitor sufferers and give them comprehensive care and physical therapy, which helps teach families, giving them recommendations to make their daily tasks a little easier.

Jamie Ingersoll, the executive director for the Utah chapter of MDA, said muscular dystrophy doesn’t only affect children. Some types affect adults, in various different times and ways in their lives.

“Our goal at MDA is to fundraise through different programs throughout the year to provide services to families that suffer from muscle disease,” Ingersoll said. “We have a great MDA-sponsored clinic at the University of Utah with several national leaders in their field.”

MDA is the world’s leading nonprofit organization and is not supported or funded by the government. Ingersoll said it receives no grants or United Way money.

“We are really responsible for raising all our own money for the families in Utah, and it is done through individuals like President Wight that are willing to participate in our program,” Ingersoll said.

Wight and many of the other 40-50 arrestees locked up will never know who volunteered them, because MDA offers a “witness protection program.” Anyone can volunteer a friend, family member or co-worker anonymously. The volunteer airmen go to the locations on their list, find the names on the list and tell them they are taking them.

After arriving at the Union Station, Wight was placed at a round table with other volunteers. They were all given phone books, pens and paper and were told to start making calls until they raised their bail money. Thankfully, Wight was able to raise his bail prior to arriving.

“This has been fun. We are all raising money for MDA, and every time somebody gets a donation, they ring the bell, and it’s been ringing, ringing, ringing all day,” Wight said. “I have had a great response from friends and family, and it’s all well worth it. I was lucky enough to raise my bail, and I think I hit my mark yesterday or the day before.”

A main program the funding goes to is the two-week summer camp program held at Camp Rogers in Kamas, Utah. The camp hosts more than 100 Utah children between 6-17 years old who have muscle disease. Each has their own personal volunteer, and they participate in activities such as horseback riding, wheelchair soccer and a dance at the end.

Lerner Johnson from West Point, Utah, said she has attended the summer camp four years in a row and loves the cheer-offs they have. She said she is the only one at her school in a wheelchair, so being around other children like her is fun.

“I think the neatest part of it is she can go and be with other kids who are like her,” said Tami Johnson, Lerner’s mother. “There are other kids in wheelchairs and other kids that have the disability, and they can talk about it. It’s nice for the family to have a break and fun for the kids.”

Those interested in donating to MDA can visit the local office in Salt Lake City or the Utah MDA website.

“A wonderful thing about MDA is all the money raised here in Utah stays here in Utah to help our families,” Ingersoll said. “That is important to me, and I like people to know that.”