WYANDOTTE— After being approved for Make-A-Wish, 8-year-old Rowdy Marlow was inspired to pay it forward and fulfill another child’s wish in Oklahoma.
Rowdy's parents are McKenzi and Chance Marlow of Wyandotte who also have a second son named Dax, 6. Both Rowdy and Dax attend Wyandotte Elementary.
Rowdy has a rare form of muscular dystrophy called Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease (CMT). It’s a group of hereditary disorders that damage the nerves in the arms and legs.
CMT is the most commonly inherited peripheral nerve disorder affecting about 1 in 2,500 people. It is a peripheral neuropathy, which means it affects the motor and sensory nervous system. It particularly affects the feet, lower legs, hands and forearms.
McKenzi said they started noticing symptoms of the disease at age 2.
“He was tripping and falling a lot,” McKenzi said. “He kept tripping over his toes. He couldn’t lift his feet up.”
The third grader now has to navigate by wheelchair. McKenzi said they acquired the chair in May, but Rowdy doesn’t let it get in the way of living life to the fullest. He constantly has a smile across his face.
“He’s naturally kind-hearted,” McKenzi said. “That’s just the type of person he is, always willing to give back. He is always happy and optimistic.”
Rowdy was recently approved for Make-A-Wish in August after being nominated by his therapy teacher. He takes physical and occupational therapy at Wyandotte Elementary and his therapy team referred him to the foundation.
Rowdy was so excited to hear about being approved, he did a wheelie across the house.
“When he was nominated for Make-A-Wish, he could’ve lit up the world with that smile,” McKenzi said.
His ultimate wish is to travel to Hawaii to go deep-sea fishing. He also has a list of other activities to do there, as well like parasailing, visiting the Pearl Harbor Museum and going to a volcano park.
“At first, he wanted to go Alaska to go deep-sea fishing,” his mother said. “Then, we did more research. He then changed his mind to go to fishing in Hawaii.”
“I like to go fishing,” Rowdy said. “I figured I could go deep sea fishing but I could also do that in Hawaii.”
The family is currently on the waiting list and are said to be visiting the island in late 2017 or 2018.
After being approved, Rowdy had the benevolent idea to give back. He wanted to grant another child’s wish in Oklahoma and began collecting money for the state’s Walk For Wishes Fundraiser in Oklahoma City.
“He’s raising money for Make-A-Wish Oklahoma,” McKenzi said. “It stays local. There’s a Walk For Wishes Fundraiser at the Oklahoma City Zoo on Nov. 5. Since he was chosen to receive a wish, he decided to help another kid get a wish.”
Thus far, Rowdy has reached 98 percent of his $3,000 goal. He currently has $2,955 in the fund as of Saturday morning. He has received donations from across the nation.
The Wyandotte School District has been very supportive of Rowdy’s endeavors with teachers and students donating to his fundraiser.
“Rowdy is an amazing young man,” Wyandotte elementary principal Carla Lyons said. “He sets the bar high in all that he does. He is compassionate, kind and gracious. He brightens our day. We love Rowdy and his family.”
To keep paying it forward, two seniors on the football team stepped up to give back to Rowdy. Brandon Brown and Tristan Frazier have Rowdy in their physical education class and had the idea of including him in one of their home football games on Oct. 7.
“Tristan and BB play with Rowdy almost every day and try to get him involved in all of the games that we do no matter what we’re playing,” Brad Homer, Wyandotte PE teacher and head high school football coach, said. “Those two came up to me with an idea and said they’d love to push Rowdy out of the helmet tunnel for the game on Friday. I loved the idea and I was really taken by it.”
Brown and Frazier carried Rowdy out on their shoulders on game night against Adair. The two seniors were happy to give back to their underclassman.
“I just want to say thank you for allowing him to walk out of the tunnel with us,” Frazier wrote on McKenzi’s Facebook. “BB and I have Rowdy in my second hour PE class and he is the best kid I know. Every day he comes in with a smile on his face and I haven't ever heard him complain about anything. I will definitely remember this for the rest of my life and I will always have Rowdy in my prayers. Thank you for this opportunity.”
“Thank you guys,” Brown wrote on McKenzi’s Facebook. “Rowdy is the strongest kid I know. I also have him in my second hour PE class. He is a great kid and never complains about anything. I will remember this day for the rest of my life and I will also keep him in my prayers.”
McKenzi said that being included in the game was one of the happiest moments of Rowdy’s life and one surely he will never forget. He had a huge grin on his face as the players carried him out of the giant inflatable football helmet and onto the field.
Homer said he was proud of his team’s selfless act to incorporate Rowdy in their game.
“Even though we didn’t play well that night and got beat, I told the team that those are things we will always overcome, but being part of something big like this will last a lifetime,” Homer said. “I think it sets such a positive precedence for the younger generation. I try to tell the kids before being a great leader, you have to be a servant and be willing to see things beyond yourself.”
Not only is the school and community supportive of Rowdy, his younger brother Dax is always there for him, too. The siblings are only 13 months apart and are commonly mistaken as twins. McKenzi said Rowdy is close to both her and Chance, but his biggest supporter is Dax.
“I’ll help walk him to the car or give him a piggyback ride,” Dax said.
“Dax does it without being told to,” McKenzi said. “It’s just an automatic response. Whatever Rowdy needs, Dax is always the first one there.”
In return, Rowdy helps Dax academically. McKenzi said they were both studying while out on Fall Break.
“I teach him how to read and give him spelling tests,” Rowdy said.
The two are caught doing everything together and Dax said he looks up to his older brother as his hero.
“Dax has been telling everybody since the football game that his brother’s famous,” McKenzi said. “I told him Rowdy would be famous one day.”
To donate or learn more about Rowdy’s fundraiser, visit http://site.wish.org/site/TR?px=3292560&fr_id=2036&pg=personal#.WAKCEZMrLR3
— Kimberly W. Barker is a staff writer for the Miami News-Record. She can be emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @MiamiNews_hound.