As Mitch inched closer to the abyss he became more emotional. Already physically weakened by the catastrophic muscle wasting of Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy, he was now suffering from low oxygen because his heart was barely working. The heart is a muscle, too. Simple tasks that were once easy for him to perform were now nearly impossible. He didn't understand why Legos were suddenly so perplexing. Even his fine motor skills were greatly reduced. Mitch would weep because he wanted to be a little boy and this invisible monster had not only taken away the strength of his muscles but now his heart, which affected his mind.

In this photo Mitch was trying to build a Lego set that was gifted to him by a Mitchell’s Journey follower. He was so excited to build it and was touched that so many people cared. When he couldn’t make sense of the instructions he began to weep. I immediately set my phone down and held my son in my arms and kissed him and told him Daddy would help him. Mitch eventually calmed down and asked, “Dad, why can't I build Legos anymore? They are so easy. I don’t understand.” I responded softly, “Oh, Mitch, your heart is so tired and in need of rest. And your mind needs your heart. Because your heart is tired, so is your mind.” Mitch closed his eyes and rested a while. I wish I could have held him in my arms forever.

Mitch was remarkable in his fight to survive. His hospice nurse was startled how his body fought valiantly compensate for organ failure. “Your son is a fighter”, she said, “one of the strongest I've ever seen.”

Fast forward a few weeks and I would be reeling in grief over the death of a little boy who was in many ways a best friend to me. Though I was his father, the little boy in me lost a dear friend, too. And that hurt. A lot.

Then, in May of 2014 I received an email from a woman on behalf of her adopted son, Marco, who was an MMA fighter. She said her entire family was touched by Mitchell’s story and wanted to help raise awareness in honor of my son. She asked for permission to put Mitchell’s Journey on his T-Shirts, fight shorts and banners. I gave them permission and sent her the logo files so the printers could do it right.

I wasn't sure what would come of it, but something inside me felt it was right. A few months later I would then watch as this good man stand in a ring surrounded by a crowd of cheering fans. Marco had a look of determination in his face that was sharp, fierce and focused. By his mannerisms it was clear he believed deeply in God and wanted little Mitch to know he was fighting in memory of him. At that point the outcome of the fight didn't matter to me … for Marco already won. The bell would ring and in less than 2 minutes the fight was over and Marco was victorious. He fell to his knees and thanked God for the wind behind his sails.

What happened next brought me to tears. Marco would then take the microphone, undefeated, holding his belt and thanked God, his team. He then asked 14,000 people to look up Mitchell’s Journey and learn about a little boy who died from DMD.

Tonight, an hour from now in fact, Marco fights again in honor of Mitchell’s Journey and other boys who have DMD. What these boys lack in physical strength, Marco has in spades. That he gives his talents and strengths to the benefit these boys … and in honor of my boy, my best little friend, humbles me to my core.

Unlike Mitch, Marco has all the muscle and strength anyone would ever need. But Marco also has a heart … and a most sincere one at that. Regardless of tonight’s outcome, Marco, you have already won. From the bottom of my heart, thank you for remembering my son.

One more thing ...

There is another group who fights just as fiercely and honorably as Marco. Pat Furlong and Parent Project Muscular Dystrophy ... they tried to save my son from heart failure. I honor them for their continued efforts to improve cardiac care in kids with DMD. Here is a link to their page in honor of Mitch:;jsessionid=897727A6001B3EB4FE400EF84444784A.app272a?4380.donation=root&idb=1525494756&DONATION_LEVEL_ID_SELECTED=1981&df_id=4380