Military family to host 5K Eat & Run to 'Heal Caleb'

By Roslyn Giles

COLUMBUS, GA (WTVM) - When Caleb Merriken, 2, was born in June, 2008, he looked like a normal baby.   His mother, Kari said it wasn't until Caleb was five months old that they noticed some health problems originally considered to associated with Acid Reflux—a common digestive disorder.

"At 15 months, Caleb still wasn't walking although he had reached all other milestones in the growth curve.  He was crawling at 8.5 months, pulling up and rolling over as expected," added Kari.

Kari and her husband Kanaan took Caleb to Children's Medical Center in Augusta, Georgia for a series of tests following a doctor's 'failure to thrive' notation because of his inability to walk and low weight.

"I remember the day the Neurologist had run a bunch of tests. She came in and said, "I think its Spinal Muscular Atrophy."

It was devastating news for the Merrikens because they'd been hoping Caleb's medical problem was curable. SMA is a progressive neuromuscular disease for which there is no treatment or a cure.

Kari explained, "I went to the bathroom in the hospital and I just cried. The thing that bugged me the most is thinking about he's not going to be able to play on the playground. I know that sounds trivial, but a little boy is supposed to play on the playground and go down the slide, so that's really hard."

Kanaan describes the ordeal as difficult, "The hard part is not being able to play catch with him or throw—the father and son stuff, but it doesn't bring me down."

Kanaan found himself near death while fighting in Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2005.  An Improvised Explosive Device (IED) hit him and caused traumatic trauma to the brain. He was given 72 hours to live, but the Ranger Specialist beat the odds.

"I don't match my injuries with Caleb's illness because they're different."

But he is hoping Caleb will get a chance at a full vibrant life like he has.  The couple isn't just hoping their working hard to raise money for a cure.

"We have raised $33,000 so far to be donated toward research on SMA not just for Caleb but for others how are suffering from this fatal illness," said Kari.

Most of the funds have been collected through fundraisers and donations on their website:

They're also hosting the 1St Annual SMA 5K Eat & Run Saturday, March 26, 2011 at Hardaway High School @ 10 AM.  Late registration starts at 9 AM.