There’s a lot to celebrate surrounding the game of lacrosse in Ridgefield, Connecticut these days. 

The tight-knit community, located in the southwest corner of the state, hard-up against the New York line, has a pair of championship-caliber teams at Ridgefield High School, as well as a thriving and growing youth program. In fact, Ridgefield Youth Lacrosse (RYL), a US Lacrosse member league, is one of the biggest town programs in the Northeast.

But more important than these triumphs on the field, the community’s proudest lacrosse achievement has nothing to do with wins, championships, or growing rosters.

Four years ago, second-grader Conner Curran, the oldest of three sons for Ridgefield residents Chris and Jessica Curran, was diagnosed with Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy (DMD). 

Duchenne is a progressively fatal genetic disorder that causes major muscle weakness in the limbs and trunk, and serious medical issues in the heart and respiratory system. Typically, those that have the disease are confined to a wheelchair by age 12. Because the Duchenne gene is found on the X-chromosome, it primarily affects males; however, it occurs across all races and cultures.

“When your child receives a devastating diagnosis of a life limiting disease, it’s a crushing blow and the world as you know it falls apart,” said Chris Curran. “The fear of losing Conner overwhelmed me to the point where I just wanted to live in denial of the diagnosis.”

Having a strong foundation in team sports, Chris and Jessica decided that they could not remain on the sidelines and watch as the disease slowly took Conner. The fight was on.

Chris serves as a coach for Ridgefield Youth Lacrosse, and both of his other sons are in good health and play in the league. The RYL quickly rallied behind the Currans, who have worked tirelessly since Conner’s diagnosis to raise awareness about Duchenne and money for research. 

The league organized a ‘Crushing it for Conner’ campaign in which boys’ and girls’ teams waged a friendly competition to see which squad could raise the most money for Conner. Pizza parties, gift certificates, and new lacrosse sticks were among the prizes for the winners.

“We want our players to develop a love of the game, but also to understand that giving back is a core value,” said RYL president Greg Tebbe. “Crushing it for Conner was an opportunity to teach our kids the value of giving to others, and at the same time supporting one of our own lacrosse families.”

The funds help to offset medical expenses incurred by the Currans, as well as ongoing travel costs to take part in clinical trials at Duke University Hospital in North Carolina.  Money is also needed for house adaptations that make life more manageable for Conner.

“The coaches, parents and athletes touched us beyond measure with their huge hearts,” Chris Curran said. “The Ridgefield community has been such a source of comfort to our family.”

In between hospital visits and treatments, the Currans have also become strong advocates for other families dealing with Duchenne. They spend time reaching out to elected officials for research funding support, and have created their own organization, “Kindness Over Muscular Dystrophy” to help find a cure.

To date, KOMD has raised over $800,000, with 100-percent of the funds committed to Duchenne research and clinical trials. The family hosted its fourth annual KOMD benefit last month and had over 600 attendees at the Captain Lawrence Brewery in honor of Conner. They raised over $200,000 in one evening.

The Currans have partnered with another non-profit, the Parent Project Muscular Dystrophy, to help accelerate research, impact policy, provide care for affected families, and ensure access to approved therapies.

“We are all blown away with who they are and what they are doing,” Tebbe said.

As a lacrosse family, the Currans still remain connected to the sport they love. When Chris is not travelling with Conner to a clinical trial or advocating with government representatives, he is back on the RYL sidelines. 

“They have so much on their plate, but when they are here, they find time to give back,” Tebbe said. “Quitting is not in their vocabulary. They are truly remarkable people.”

The good news is that Conner has shown some impressive improvements in his physical abilities through a new gene therapy trial, but the journey is far from completed. Researchers are unsure, at this early stage, as to how long the gene therapy will remain effective. They must also find a way to re-dose patients without causing an extreme allergic reaction.

“We believe the cure is out there for Conner and we desperately need help to fund promising research in order to find that cure for him and so many others,” said Chris Curran. 

To learn more about Duchenne or provide support, please visit www.parentprojectmd.org
 

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