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Playing for a cure

When Derek Murphy was a baby, his parents noticed he wasn't hitting developmental milestones as quickly as his two older brothers had. He had trouble crawling, instead using a commando crawl to fight his way forward. His first birthday passed and he still wasn't walking.

Derek's parents, Sue Ellen and John Murphy, tried not to worry. Everyone develops at a different pace, they reasoned. But when Derek still wasn't walking at 15 months, "we just knew something wasn't right," Sue Ellen said.

After blood tests and a clinical observation, the Murphys found out what exactly was wrong: Derek had Duchenne muscular dystrophy, a neurological disease that weakens muscles at a fast rate. Life expectancy is only in the teens.

The diagnosis changed the Murphys' lives in many ways, one of which was that they embraced the role of raising money for muscular dystrophy research. One of their endeavors, The Derek Murphy MVP for MDA Game, is a charity softball game sponsored by Spotlight Newspapers and the Albany Dutchmen and featuring local media personalities. Last year's inaugural game brought in more than $1,000 for the Muscular Dystrophy Association. Organizers say this year's game, planned for Thursday, June 16, at 7 p.m., has already raised even more.

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"We had a blast last year and we're looking forward to doing it again this year," Spotlight Managing Editor Bill DeVoe said. "It raises money for a great cause."

Duchenne muscular dystrophy moves quickly, wiping out muscle strength throughout the body. Sue Ellen said kids with Duchenne lose the muscle function in their lower body and then up through their torso and trunk; a wheelchair is pretty much an inevitability.

Derek started to lose his balance last summer, and within months, he had to start using a wheelchair and leg braces. But the fourth-grader at Bell Top Elementary School in North Greenbush has an attitude that stands in stark contrast to his physical problems.

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