A Hike In Memoriam – Mom To Hike Grand Canyon As Parting Gift To Son

Imagine being born with a condition that progressively weakens your muscles with time. Imagine having to live with the knowledge that you will be losing most of your motor functions.  Imagine being completely unable to walk by the age of 12. Imagine this happening to someone who loves the outdoors and loves to see the world.  Imagine having Duchenne muscular dystrophy.

Nicholas Gabel loved Japanese animé, culture and action figures. He was into adaptive swimming, played in a power soccer team and also participated in Winners on Wheels. He loved all thing electronics and was part of the Robotics team at school. Like most teenagers, he absolutely adored videogames. He loved to travel and always looked forward to his next trip with mom, in their trusty old van, hungrily eating up the miles on an endless tarmac. After the Niagara Falls and the Comic Convention at Toronto, next up on his wish list was a Grand Canyon tour.  But it wasn’t to be.

Nick passed away from complications of the degenerative muscle disease in 2005. He was just two weeks short of his 15th birthday.

Now Karen Gabel wants to give him his final wish. On April 20, Karen Gabel will leave for Arizona to hike part of the Grand Canyon, in an effort to raise funds for and to spread awareness of Duchenne muscular dystrophy.

This is a unique initiative and is part of the Parent Project Muscular Dystrophy’s Conquer the Canyon campaign, a guided four-day, three-night walking and hiking fundraiser. The requirement from each hiker is that they raise at least $3,000 for PPMD, one of the largest nonprofit organizations in the U.S., solely dedicated to Duchenne.

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Duchenne muscular dystrophy occurs in approximately 1 out of every 3,600 male infants and males are more prone to be affected by it than females. It is a severely debilitating disorder and is caused by a defective gene for dystrophin, an important muscle protein.

Nick found out that he had the syndrome when an Ashtma attack at the age of 3, led to series of blood tests which showed elevated levels of a Duchenne enzyme.

Every year, for Nick’s birthday, the Gael’s celebrate with a Japanese dinner, in fond remembrance of the boy who loved Japanese culture, travel, and life, in general.

“After Nick died, I made a promise to him that I would do whatever I could and not stop until they found a cure,” Karen Gabel said. “We lose so many boys. … They are just so full of life, and it’s not fair.

Conquer the Canyon is Karen’s largest fundraising and awareness effort to date.

Here’s to Karen’s Grand ambitions…and to Nick, the boy who truly understood the meaning of ‘joie de vivre’.