Small Town News


Community holds benefit for young father

The Akron Hometowner of Akron, Iowa

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If there's one thing he wishes he could do, it would be to be able to pick up his infant daughter and carry her.

"It breaks my heart that I can't pick her up," said 27-year-old Bobby Walrod, of Akron, who suffers from a muscle-deteriorating disease called Fredrichs Ataxia.

"I can't walk by myself to the mailbox," said Bobby, who told The Akron Home-towner, he kind of "bounces off the walls" in the hallway of his home.

But his 13-month-old daughter, Delaney, doesn't mind. She knows he's the best storyteller - he reads her lots of books.

Bobby's muscles have weakened to the point that his body has lost its ability to balance - he can no longer walk without assistance. He is also losing muscle coordination, especially hand-eye coordination.

A gene mutation caused his body to attack the sheath around the spine. As the sheath deteriorates, the nerves controlling muscle functions short out, causing the muscles not to work properly. As the disease progresses, Bobby will lose more and more muscle function. However, this disease won't ever affect his mind.

"The way I look at it, if

I have my disease and I have to go through what I go through so some little kid doesn't have to endure a disease like mine, then I'll take it," said Bobby, explaining that a trip to his doctor's office in Iowa City put it all into perspective for him. "I complained all the way there. (My wife and I) had to walk a long ways to get to my doctor's office and we had our baby with us."

"When I walked into the doctor's office, there were kids Dela-ney's age and three-year-olds with cancer," he said. "You could see it in the parents' faces. I felt like an ass."

"You complain that your life is so bad, then you go in and see somebody else dealing with something 100 times worse," said Bobby, "so if I have to have my disease so some little kid like that doesn't have to, then I'm okay with it."

"My faith is a big part of it," he said. "If you don't have faith, then I think it's hard to get through every day. You have nothing to look forward to, you have no one to look to for guidance at times. If you have faith, it keeps you going."

Bobby is an Akron-Westfield Class of 2001 alumnus. In high school, he enjoyed participating in football, wrestling, track, choir, show choir and band, in which he played both alto and baritone saxophone.

Bobby loves, and that's an understatement, fishing. So much, he came up with the idea to start the Big Sioux Cat Anglers Club in 2008. When he's not trying to catch catfish, he enjoys hunting pheasant, turkeys and wild boars.

Friends witnessing his faith and humility have planned a benefit to help Bobby and his wife, Christy, cope with the ongoing medical expenses. Bobby has no insurance and doesn't qualify for medical assistance. In addition, their home is too small and not handicap-accessible.

Christy is the daughter of Joe and Carol Kessenich of Le Mars and she used to work at Archie's Waeside. She is studying at Buena Vista University - Le Mars to be an elementary teacher.

Their second child will be born this July. In order for children to inherit this genetic disease, both parents must carry the gene. Christy does not so they don't have to worry about that.

The benefit will be Saturday, Jan. 16 at St. Patrick's Church Parish Hall. 300 Third St. See ad on Page 2 in this edition for benefit details.

"We're really thankful for all the support and good wishes," said Christy.

"People talk about living in a small town," said Bobby, "but knowing this many people care enough to go out of their way and do something for you, it's amazing."

"Very heartwarming," said his parents, Gail and Bob Walrod of Akron.

Bobby's family is really close. His parents live next door. Bobby works with his father and brother, Austin, at High Tech Electric in Sioux City. Bobby is a project manager estimator.

The family became even closer after they lost Bobby's brother, Christopher, to the same disease in April 2003. One of Christopher's gifts to Bobby was introducing him to Christy, who worked at Opportunities Unlimited where Christopher lived.

"I couldn't do this without her," said Bobby.

In addition, the close relationship he has with his brother, Austin, is also high on his list. Bobby said they talk every day. In the past 6 or 7 years, they've gone maybe 20 days without talking - part of that was when Austin was enjoying his honeymoon in Hawaii and left his cell phone at home.

"I look at some people's relationships with their family and their siblings," said Bobby, "and it blows me away that they aren't close and don't talk every day."

"You don't realize it until they are gone what you've lost," said his mother.

"We've been blessed," said Bobby. "We have great friends and a close family. We couldn't ask for anymore."

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Original Publication Date: January 6, 2010

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