Stranger steps up to help brothers’ quest for life
In just a few years brothers Cooper, Riley and Logan Woronka will rely on wheelchairs - so complete stranger Travis McCarty is stepping up to walk the long road on their behalf.
The first impacts of Duchenne muscular dystrophy are already being felt by seven-year-old twins Cooper and Riley, while Logan, 2, is expected to begin a heartbreaking decline after his fourth birthday.
For parents Nick and Bekk, knowing the rare genetic disease is likely to see their sons wheelchair bound by 12 before claiming their lives by their mid-20s, means pushing to make the most of every day and every ability while the trio still have them.
Having only learned all three of her boys had Duchenne muscular dystrophy in mid-2019, Ms Woronka said the support of people such as Mr McCarty and his Walk For Woronka Boys had been overwhelming - though nothing can overcome the fears for what is ahead.
"It is such a devastating thing to have happened but, when you are supported by your community and strangers, it makes it easier to be able to cope," Ms Woronka said.
"It was earth-shattering, awful. There are no words, there is nothing anyone can say. It's just devastating.
"They have already started declining. Now they don't have as much energy, they can't walk for as long a period as they used to be able to.
"Going by averages they will most likely be in a wheelchair fully bound from around age 12 and then their life expectancy is about 20-25."
Faced with crippling costs to care for the three boys, the community rallied behind the Woronkas earlier this year to help fund a wheelchair accessible van, though Mr McCarthy felt driven to do more for the Point Cook family he'd never even met.
Starting in Craigieburn on Saturday, December 12, the 37-year-old Wandong father will walk 100km in 24-hours to raise money for the Woronkas finishing in Point Cook, hoping his inaugural march will become an annual event to support the boys.
"Their story is just so heartbreaking, but there was just something about it that touched me," Mr McCarty said.
"I am a father of four beautiful girls and I have twins as well and it was just something that clicked in my head.
"It's going to be a pretty big thing for me to be able to do. Getting into the middle and nearing the end of it I am going to be pretty fatigued, but it will be a motivation and adrenaline to think about that there is a family I am doing this for.
"If I think it's going to be tough, imagine how tough it's going to be for them."
When the families met this week, Ms Woronka said she was moved by the efforts of so many people to help her boys get everything they can out of life.
The Woronkas also hope emerging treatments including gene therapy may be advanced over the coming decade to provide more options for her trio, though in the meantime they remain focused on riding their bikes, enjoying swimming lessons and playing with her friends.
"They are the absolute happiest kids you'll ever meet," Ms Woronka said.
"They'll make the worst situations into the happiest of situations."
"There is a chance for a full life for them and that is the biggest message I want to give to them - they can do anything they want to do, it might just not be exactly what we imagined."
Originally published as Stranger steps up to help brothers' quest for life