On the outside, Slapout resident Mollie Beth Preston looks like a typical 9-year-old girl. But on the inside she is battling an illness that affects almost every aspect of her body.
Mollie has Hashimoto’s disease which is an autoimmune disorder that can cause the immune system to attack the thyroid causing hypothyroidism or an underactive thyroid. Without enough thyroid hormones, many of the body's functions slow down.
Mollie also suffers from juvenile dermatomyositis which is an inflammatory disease of the muscle, skin and blood vessels that affects about three in one million children each year. The cause is unknown. The primary symptoms of JDM include muscle weakness and skin rash.
Mollie has been plagued by these devastating illnesses for almost 3 years now.
"When she was 6 years old she became very sick out of nowhere," said Jessica Preston, who is Mollie’s mother.
Mollie was able to escape the limits of her disease when she attended Alabama's Special Camp for Children and Adults, better known as camp ASCCA, on Lake Martin for the first time in 2017. While there, she enjoyed ziplining, swimming, dancing and horseback riding among other fun camping activities.
"She came home and that's all she talked about," Jessica said. "She has made so many friends through the camp and they have stayed in contact."
After spending five days at camp ASCCA, Mollie decided she wanted to pay it forward and raise money for the organization that brought so much fun and joy to her life by creating a Muscular Dystrophy Association walk. This is the second year Mollie’s team has participated in the annual event.
There is never a fee for campers who attend camp ASCCA. The fees are paid through donations and other funding.
While Hashimoto’s disease and juvenile dermatomyositis are different illnesses than MD, the effects on the body can be very similar.
"It's day to day," Jessica said. "Some days are good and some days are not so good. Her body is fighting. Her schedule, germs, the sun, her diet, all limits her but, on the outside, she looks normal. That can be frustrating."
Jessica said seeing Mollie deal with the effects of these illnesses has been difficult to watch because she was and still is a strong-willed child.
"She was so strong and outgoing, but now there are things that she can't do anymore,” Jessica said. "She still wants to do those things, like play in the sun, but she's just not able to."
Mollie’s MDA walk is set for Oct. 19 beginning at 9 a.m. at the Montgomery Zoo.
For more information or to register for this event, go to www2.mda.or/goto/PrincesMollieB