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To get involved

Contact Janet Nagle at 301-884-8195 to volunteer or drop off donations of items to sell at the 28th annual yard fair in Charlotte Hall on Labor Day supporting the Muscular Dystrophy Association of Maryland. To schedule pickups of donations in St. Mary’s or Charles counties, call Jimmy Miller at 301-752-3151, or for Calvert County, call David Adams at 301-884-2517.

To register for the MDA Car and Motorcycle Show, held Labor Day from 8 a.m. to noon in connection with the yard fair, contact Robbie Hutchinson at 301-672-4179.

Visit the website www.somdmda.org for more information.

For nearly three decades, Janet Nagle has held an annual fundraiser that has collected tens of thousands of dollars for the Muscular Dystrophy Association. The last one will be held this Labor Day, she said.

Nagle said its a hard decision to end the annual yard fair held for nearly three decades at the Charlotte Hall Farmers Market. It began because her son, John Vernon Nagle, suffered from muscular dystrophy. He died seven years ago, at the age of 26, from complications related to the debilitating disease.

“We’re going to make it our last year,” Nagle said.

She has thought about whether to continue it for a couple of years now, she said. Always in the background is her son’s voice, asking her just days before his death to continue organizing the fair “as long as you can,” Nagle said.

“That’s exactly what we’ve done. This is as long as we can,” she said.

The idea of the yard sale came from friends when Nagle of Mechanicsville was looking for a way to give back to the Muscular Dystrophy Association.

Supporting a child with muscular dystrophy is hard, and there are costs associated with medical bills, wheelchairs, special vehicles and other equipment. The MDA was a big help to the family, especially early on, she said.

The first year was small, with some friends and neighbors bringing items to sell at the fundraiser in 1996, she said. They made about $1,200. Just doing something positive in relation to her son’s disease felt good, as did giving the money to MDA.

Nagle decided to do the same thing next year in hopes of making it bigger. Word spread and the yard fair grew and grew.

Nagle thanked farmers market owner Ben Burroughs and the donation of time from volunteers. The overhead was virtually zero and all proceeds from the past 28 years have gone to the MDA.

The annual yard fairs have brought in about $200,000 during the last 27 years. The money goes to the Muscular Dystrophy Association, which in turn funds research and helps families who have children with muscular dystrophy, families like the Millers of St. Mary’s City.

Kyle Miller, 12, loves tractors, especially ones of the green variety. He is rarely seen without a John Deere baseball cap.

Darlene Miller, Kyle’s grandmother, said Kyle was given a 1 percent chance of surviving through the first day of his life. He made it, and he is now getting ready to start middle school.

“He has 11 different doctors he sees” on a regular basis, she said. Kyle has about 20 checkup appointments annually, plus other visits to the doctors when complications arise.

He is still quick to give a smile when hearing about something he likes or playing with his siblings.

“He’s my ambassador,” Nagle said of Kyle. Just like John Nagle, Kyle loves to go to the yard fair to see the onslaught of people poring over the donated items, giving money that will go to help the Muscular Dystrophy Association.

“She knows everybody and everything,” Darlene Miller said of Janet Nagle.

Nagle said even though she will no longer organize the annual yard fair, she still plans to keep up an informal network to help families in Southern Maryland cope with muscular dystrophy.

“We kind of watch out for each other,” she said.

Donations needed

“I always say, we don’t want anything rusted, busted or broken,” Nagle said.

The annual yard fair will be held this year on Monday, Sept. 1 at the farmers market in Charlotte Hall. As she’s done every year for nearly three decades, Nagle is reaching out to the community to donate items to sell at the yard fair.

Again this year she wants to liven up the fair with some new attractions. Along with a car and motorcycle show, there will be a band.

All proceeds will benefit the MDA of Maryland to help with research and to buy wheelchairs and other equipment for people with muscular dystrophy.

There are different types of muscular dystrophy; John Nagle had Duchenne muscular dystrophy, which usually sets in between ages 2 and 6 when muscle cells start to break down due to an absence of a certain protein.

The degenerative disease primarily affects voluntary muscles, such as the ones that control arms and legs. However, as the disease progresses it can affect other muscles such as the heart and breathing muscles, according to the MDA.

Usually walking becomes all but impossible by age 10, and the ability to breathe on one’s own slowly slips away through the teen years.

But life can continue with certain adaptations. Nagle recalled her son’s poetry, and how John always had ideas for screenplays, which he was able to put into writing with the help of a computer setup.

He still plays an important role in the Nagle family as they continue as advocates for others who live with the disease.

As medicines and technology improve, the opportunities to live longer and more fulfilling lives expand, and that’s the goal of the work funded by the MDA, Nagle said. That work will continue.

jyeatman@somdnews.com