Bay the Brave: Poway child with muscular dystrophy inspires community

Sometimes the most powerful stories of inspiration come from the smallest of sources. That’s certainly the case for 8-year-old Baylen Preece who brought the community together before the start of Poway’s varsity football game on October 7, 2022.

Baylen completed his goal of running one mile around the track, a goal his parents thought he would never achieve because of a rare genetic disorder he’s battled for two years. In October of 2020, Baylen was diagnosed with Duchenne muscular dystrophy. The disease causes progressive muscle weakness and deterioration due to the lack of the dystrophin protein that helps keep muscle cells intact.

“Once he was diagnosed, we were like, ‘We can’t wait, we can’t keep pushing things off,’” said Baylen’s mother, Laura Preece. “There’s not going to be a better time for a lot of things, so we made dreams or goals for a year while I was homeschooling him.”

During the pandemic, Baylen’s condition made isolation imperative to keep his immune system healthy. The Preece family turned a time of sadness into a time of hope for the future.

“One of the goals he made last year was to run a mile, and obviously we were like, ‘You know that’s going to be really hard for you to do buddy,’” Laura said. “But instead of saying no, we eventually said yes, but let’s figure out how we can make it work.”

Baylen’s father Josh says every time his son moves his body, his muscles are being broken-down and replaced by scar tissue. It makes simple movements extremely painful, and the act of running long distances nearly impossible.

“It seems like a small task, but it’s such a huge task, I would relate it to running a marathon,” Josh said.

The Preece family began talking to friends about how to help Baylen run his mile. The Poway School District, including the athletic department, did not hesitate to jump on board.

“They were so excited to do it, and it was amazing to see our community be like, ‘Absolutely, let’s not make it this simple thing— let’s go big,’” Laura said.

With the help from the football team, cheerleaders, the Titan Ambassador Program, along with friends, family, and even strangers— Baylen took to the track and kicked things off by running the first portion of the mile on his own.

“His teachers from his school will push him, and then the ambassadors are going to join in, so he’ll have this big crowd running with him as he’s doing it,” Laura said. “It’s hard to put into words how grateful I am that they are willing to make us feel loved and important, and making him feel like he’s the star of the night because he deserves so much.”

To cries and cheers from the crowd, Baylen, despite his pain, finished the last portion of the mile on his own.

“The emotion in seeing your child accomplish such a huge feat and seeing him do such a task despite all of the pain I know he’s in, it’s amazing,” Josh said. “He lives life to the fullest. He may be limited on the days he has available to use his muscles, but he’s not going to let a day go by where he doesn’t beg us to go do something active.”

The family thanked the community for making the impossible possible for their son. They encouraged others dealing with difficulty to know that people want to offer support however they can.

“The community, the support is there. It’s hard for people to ask for help, and it’s something we struggled with the first few months of his diagnosis,” Josh said. “But we can’t do it alone.”

If you want to learn more about Duchenne muscular dystrophy, and help find a cure, just visit: https://cureduchenne.org/

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