Just a week before Christmas in 2008, Terry and Sonya Marlin of Dickson, Tenn., received news that no parent ever wants to hear: Their two sons, Jonah, 5, and Emory, 2, had been diagnosed with Duchenne muscular dystrophy, an inherited disease that involves rapidly worsening muscle weakness. Most Duchenne muscular dystrophy patients are bound to wheelchairs by the age of 12, and their life expectancy only reaches into their 20s.
Within one year, Jonah and Emory’s health began deteriorating to the point that they had trouble simply walking up stairs. The Marlins couldn’t just stand aside as this happened and decided to establish FightDMD, a foundation dedicated to finding a cure for Duchenne muscular dystrophy, in April 2010. As part of FightDMD’s mission, it is striving to launch a research department at the Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tenn. Although Vanderbilt has agreed to this partnership, FightDMD must first raise $500,000.
In an effort to meet this goal, Terry sought the help of Jamie Mullican, a lifelong friend and owner of WrapArtist.com. FightDMD organized a large tailgate at the college football matchup between the University of Tennessee and the University of Georgia in Knoxville, Tenn., in the fall of 2011 and decided to park a wrapped bus in front of the event, Mullican says.
Keeping with the Tennessee football spirit, the bus wrap featured a white and orange checkered motif, similar to Tennessee’s end zones, but it also prominently displayed FightDMD’s website, www.FightDMD.com, as well as pictures of children affected by Duchenne muscular dystrophy, Mullican says. In fact, the website was such a focus of the wrap that it was shown on each panel of the bus.
“The whole focus of the wrap was to draw attention to the website and get as many people as possible to click on the website and like our Facebook page,” Mullican says. “The more people we have that know what FightDMD is, the better off we are.”
Mullican says the bus wrap was well-received, and many people stopped at the tailgate just to donate money after seeing the graphics. If FightDMD were to have only put up a few banners, Mullican firmly believes it would not have been as impactful.
“It was amazing that the response and the awareness that were brought just from that bus wrap were tenfold more than what we would have received with everything else because it was so big,” Mullican says. “You see wraps every day, but it’s not every day that you see a huge bus wrap. With that bus wrap sitting in front of 102,000 people, it sparked a lot of conversations.”
Although the bus wrap clearly supported the Tennessee Volunteers, even Georgia fans stopped by to donate to FightDMD, Mullican says.
“Seeing that wrap really makes you think,” Mullican says. “You’re there to have a good time, watch a game and tailgate with friends, but when you see a big bus with kids who can’t have the same kind of fun that we’re having and their life expectancy is in their early 20s, it puts a whole new perspective on it and brings attention to the cause.”
To create this wrap, Mullican contacted Mark Rowe, owner of Adnormous Graphics in Atlanta, to produce the graphics. Rowe provided the bus wrap to FightDMD at cost, which was paid for by Blue Cross Blue Shield of Tennessee and Benefits Inc., and printed the graphics using an HP25500 Latex printer onto 3M CV3 film and coated the vinyl with 3M 8518 laminate.
While the disease has not become easier on Jonah or Emory, the Marlins remain hopeful that a cure can be found. Plans are in the works to organize another tailgate featuring a FightDMD bus wrap because of its successful presence the first time around along with other events, such as celebrity basketball games and golf tournaments. Mullican estimates that FightDMD is now halfway to $500,000 and is optimistic that the foundation will reach its financial goals.
To find out how to help this cause, visit www.fightdmd.com.