A musician's decades-long battle with the fear of inheriting his dad's incurable disease.
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Muscular Dystrophy Association

There are certain moments in our lives that are too important not to share with the people we love.

Singer-songwriter Eric Hutchinson is having one of those moments.


Photo by Ralph Arvesen/Flickr.

Hutchinson and his band recently embarked on a tour to promote his new album, which he was proud to have independently produced. They are set to perform in Hutchinson's home state of Maryland at Merriweather Post Pavilion, an over 19,000-seat outdoor amphitheater that has hosted some of the most famed musicians in modern history.

This is one show Hutchinson doesn't want his family to miss. And he's especially excited for his dad to see him on the historic stage. But getting him there requires more than a VIP pass.

Before Hutchinson was big enough to pick up a guitar, his dad was diagnosed with an adult-onset form of muscular dystrophy (MD).

Photo from Eric Hutchinson, used with permission.

In the decades that followed, the disease progressively took away his father's control of his own body.

Though Hutchinson was too young to fully grasp the situation at the time, as his father's condition progressed, a frightening picture came slowly into focus.

"I don’t remember when I first found out about my dad’s disease, but I just knew that something was different," he said. "But the older I got, the more I understood, and the more I worried."

Then, in college, he learned more about MD that gave him concern for his own future.

Most muscular dystrophies are genetic. Hutchinson had a 50% chance of inheriting the gene flaw that caused his father’s MD.

"When am I going to wake up and feel something?" he wondered. "When my hands were tired, I worried that they were symptoms."

And as his creative interests became a full-time music career, he had a hard time facing the possibility that it could be taken away so prematurely.


"I’m a musician, and I rely on my hands to perform," he said. "So it wasn't just, 'Am I going to lose the ability to handle my day-to-day.' It was also, 'Am I going to lose the ability to do my job?'"

As his motor skills deteriorated, Hutchinson’s father had to let go of a lot of his passions. But he never stopped challenging himself.

“To my dad's amazing credit, he was always trying to do as much as possible and not allow it to limit him,” said Hutchinson.

Photo from Eric Hutchinson, used with permission.

When it would have been easy to withdraw, his dad went headfirst into parts unknown. MD made his woodworking difficult and dangerous, but he could still use a computer. So he earned a master’s degree and started a new career in web design.

Though he could no longer hold a guitar chord, he still had a voice, so he joined his synagogue choir. And, says Hutchinson, he walked for as long as his body would allow, falling often, but getting up just as many times.

While his father’s illness started as a fearful shadow to run from, his chosen life gave Hutchinson the courage to get tested.

In the winter of 2015, the day before he began recording his new album, Hutchinson met with a neurologist to give blood samples for the test. In a matter of weeks, he’d finally have the answer he’d been avoiding.

“I found my mind drifting while recording,” Hutchinson wrote in a personal essay once his work in the studio was done. “The sessions were colored by the anxiety that at any moment the doctor could be calling with results that could change my life.”

But, like his father, he chose to persevere. “I put one foot in front of the other, channeled the emotion into the songs, and kept talking to my therapist who helped me navigate it all. Slowly, I got stronger.”

Photo from Eric Hutchinson, used with permission.

Two days after he finished recording his album, he got a call from his doctor. Hutchinson tested negative for the genetic mutation for MD. But what he thought would be some of the most relieving news of his life turned out to be more bittersweet.

"I expected to have this celebratory, washing over me with elation. Of course it was a relief, but MD was still a part of my family, so I had a lot of complicated feelings around it."

For Hutchinson, an end to his fear of MD marked the beginning of a new mission to support the MD community. He's starting by simply talking about the disease.

This is something new for him, as his family tended to avoid open conversation about MD.

"It was like a secret I had to keep, which felt very isolating. So I’m proud of the fact that we’re having this conversation right now," he said. "Being able to talk about it takes away some of the fear. I can look at it more clinically and understand it for what it is."

And with his upcoming tour, he’s inviting his fans into the conversation through his music and a heartfelt open letter that speaks to his personal journey.

Photo by Ralph Arvesen/Flickr.

Hutchinson joins a long list of entertainers in that effort, dating back to 1951 with Jerry Lewis and Dean Martin’s first televised appeal for viewers to support the Muscular Dystrophy Association on “The Colgate Comedy Hour.”

While a cure is yet to be discovered, MD research has led to potentially game-changing developments.

Among them are advancements in physical therapy, experimental drugs that could help control MD symptoms and gene editing using revolutionary CRISPR technology.

Image by Ernesto del Aguila III, NHGRI/Wikimedia Commons.

We can see the value of all that work in recent stories like those of 18-year-old Latondra Chappell, a teen with MD who worked hard in physical therapy to get out of her wheelchair and walk the stage at graduation; 23-year-old Jon Piacentino, an aspiring scientist who has benefited hugely from experimental MD drug treatment; and 14-year-old Devin Argall, who’s participating in an MD drug clinical trial and was named a "goodwill ambassador" in the state of Wisconsin for his advocacy.

For the first time in years, Hutchinson feels he's on the right emotional bearing, and he wants to spread good along the way.

Connecting with people through music is one way he wants to do that. And if he ever veers off course, he knows just where to look to get back on track:

"I reflect on my dad. I got to see his resolve and endless determination up close. He fell, but he got up. Now I fall, but I get up."

As for the big show in Maryland, Hutchinson and his manager were making door-to-door arrangements and ensuring there was wheelchair access every step of the way.

Because beyond his son's music success, hearing his newfound voice on MD — and on such a massive stage — would be too proud a moment for Hutchinson's dad to miss.

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Amazon

Shopping sustainably is increasingly important given the severity of the climate crisis, but sometimes it's hard to know where to turn. Thankfully, Amazon is making it a little easier to browse thousands of products that have one or more of 19 sustainability certifications that help preserve the natural world.

The online retailer recently announced Climate Pledge Friendly, a program to make it easier for customers to discover and shop for more sustainable products. To determine the sustainability of a product, the program partnered with third-party certifications, including governmental agencies, nonprofits, and independent labs.

With a selection of items spanning grocery, household, fashion, beauty, and personal electronics, you'll be able to shop more sustainably not just for the holiday season, but throughout the year for your essentials, as well.

You can browse all of the Climate Pledge Friendly products here, labeled with an icon and which certification(s) they meet. To get you on your way to shopping more sustainably, we've rounded up eight of our favorite Climate Pledge Friendly-products that will make great gifts all year long.

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Jack Wolfskin Women's North York Coat

Give the gift of warmth and style with this coat, available in a variety of colors. Sustainability is built into all Jack Wolfskin products and each item comes with a code that lets you trace back to its origins and understand how it was made.

Bluesign: Bluesign products are responsibly manufactured by using safer chemicals and fewer resources, including less energy, in production.


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Amazon All-new Echo Dot (4th Gen)

For the tech-obsessed. This Alexa smart speaker, which comes in a sleek, compact design, lets you voice control your entertainment and your smart home as well as connect with others.

Reducing CO2: Products with this certification reduce their carbon footprint year after year. Certified by the Carbon Trust.


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Burt's Bees Family Jammies Matching Holiday Organic Cotton Pajamas

Get into the holiday spirit with these fun matching PJs for the whole family. Perfect for pictures that even Fido can get in on.

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Naturistick 5-Pack Lip Balm Gift Set

With 100% natural ingredients that are gentle on ultra-sensitive lips, this gift is a great gift for the whole family.

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Arus Women's GOTS Certified Organic Cotton Hooded Full Length Turkish Bathrobe

For those who love to lounge around, this full-length organic cotton bathrobe is the way to go. Available in five different colors, it has comfortable cuffed sleeves, a hood, pockets, and adjustable belt.

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L'Occitane Extra-Gentle Vegetable Based Soap

This luxe soap, made with moisturizing shea butter and scented with verbena, is perfect for the self-care obsessed.

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Goodthreads Men's Sweater-Knit Fleece Long-Sleeve Bomber

For the fashionable men in your life, this fashion-forward knit bomber is an excellent choice. The sweater material keeps it cozy and warm, while the bomber jacket-cut, zip front, and rib-trim neck make it look elevated.

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All-new Fire TV Stick with Alexa Voice Remote

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Reducing CO2: Products with this certification reduce their carbon footprint year after year. Certified by the Carbon Trust.

Even as millions of Americans celebrated the inauguration of President Joe Biden this week, the nation also mourned the fact that, for the first time in modern history, the United States did not have a peaceful transition of power.

With the violent attack on the U.S. Capitol on January 6, when pro-Trump insurrectionists attempted to stop the constitutional process of counting electoral votes and where terrorists threatened to kill lawmakers and the vice president for not keeping Trump in power, our long and proud tradition was broken. And although presidential power was ultimately transferred without incident on January 20, the presence of 20,000 National Guard troops around the Capitol reminded us of the threat that still lingers.

First Lady Jill Biden showed up today with cookies in hand for a group of National Guard troops at the Capitol to thank them for keeping her family safe. The homemade chocolate chip cookies were a small token of appreciation, but one that came from the heart of a mother whose son had served as well.

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If the past year has taught us nothing else, it's that sending love out into the world through selfless acts of kindness can have a positive ripple effect on people and communities. People all over the United States seemed to have gotten the message — 71% of those surveyed by the World Giving Index helped a stranger in need in 2020. A nonprofit survey found 90% helped others by running errands, calling, texting and sending care packages. Many people needed a boost last year in one way or another and obliging good neighbors heeded the call over and over again — and continue to make a positive impact through their actions in this new year.

Upworthy and P&G Good Everyday wanted to help keep kindness going strong, so they partnered up to create the Lead with Love Fund. The fund awards do-gooders in communities around the country with grants to help them continue on with their unique missions. Hundreds of nominations came pouring in and five winners were selected based on three criteria: the impact of action, uniqueness, and "Upworthy-ness" of their story.

Here's a look at the five winners:

Edith Ornelas, co-creator of Mariposas Collective in Memphis, Tenn.

Edith Ornelas has a deep-rooted connection to the asylum-seeking immigrant families she brings food and supplies to families in Memphis, Tenn. She was born in Jalisco, Mexico, and immigrated to the United States when she was 7 years old with her parents and sister. Edith grew up in Chicago, then moved to Memphis in 2016, where she quickly realized how few community programs existed for immigrants. Two years later, she helped create Mariposas Collective, which initially aimed to help families who had just been released from detention centers and were seeking asylum. The collective started out small but has since grown to approximately 400 volunteers.