Warner Robins community rallies to raise funds for family of ill child

awoolen@macon.comJanuary 4, 2013 

WARNER ROBINS -- When Wyatt Holter was 5 weeks old, he stopped moving his arms and legs.

After seeing a doctor, he was admitted to The Children’s Hospital in Macon where, after a series of tests, the doctors gave parents Katie and Josh the news: Wyatt has spinal muscular atrophy.

The life-threatening disease attacks nerves that control voluntary and some involuntary muscle movement. Wyatt has Type I, the most severe.

After the diagnosis, the couple’s co-workers and friends immediately went into action. Co-workers at Katie Holter’s former accounting firm founded Wyatt’s Wish 5K and Fun Run in November. The race is Saturday.

Josh Holter is in the Air Force, stationed at Robins Air Force Base, so the Warner Robins couple has insurance, but it doesn’t pay for everything.

The idea was to raise money to help cover the cost of the medical equipment Wyatt needs, which insurance doesn’t cover.

The $20,000 goal seemed lofty at the time, but Olivia Monroe, one of the committee members, said she is glad they stuck with it. Although she didn’t have the exact figure immediately available, between race registrations and donations, the group has bested that.

“We surpassed what we’ve ever imagined,” said Monroe.

Eighty percent will go to the Holter family with the other 20 percent going toward spinal muscular atrophy research to find a cure.

“I’m in awe,” said Monroe of the community’s response to the event.

People as far away as Germany have registered to be phantom runners, people who pay the race fee but do not run. Monroe said there are registrants from California, Maryland and Texas.

“I just never imagined,” Katie Holter said of the overwhelming support of the community. “It means everything to us.”

A special stroller allowing Wyatt, now 5 months, to lay flat is needed because he is unable to sit up. The stroller alone costs $4,000.

There are feeding tubes and special breathing machines as well as an emergency tank of oxygen, which the couple rents.

The couple also has a nurse seven days a week, paid through the military’s Extended Care Health Option program.

The parents plan to be at the event, but Wyatt is susceptible to colds and will be at home with his nurse.

More than 400 people have registered for Saturday’s race, which starts at 8 a.m. at the Landing Pointe Shopping Center on the corner of Ga. 247 and Sandy Run Road. Registration starts at 7 a.m.

The cost is $25 for the 5K, $15 for the fun run and $15 for phantom runners. For more information, contact Monroe at (478) 361-7651.

“It’s amazing that people who don’t even know our baby would support us,” Katie Holter said.

Monroe said she is humbled just knowing how well the family is handling this.

“Katie told me, ‘We’re doing this all for Wyatt’s legacy,’ ’’ she said.

“It’s all for him.”

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