Rob Kellam of Dover remembers his brother while preparing for the Muscular Dystrophy Association benefit set for Wednesday, March 31, at Buffalo Wild Wings on Bay Road. The lock-up gives the public the chance to bail out friends and associates for a cause.
Lately, Rob Kellam has had a visitor. There’s been a red cardinal perching in his backyard a few times a day.
It wouldn’t be of note to most people, but in Kellam’s family a red cardinal is a sign. Kellam’s brother Eddie was a birdwatcher, his favorite bird being the red cardinal. Since his death in 1979, the family thinks of him every time they see one. So for one to have set up temporary residence in Kellam’s backyard while he’s planning a tribute to his brother seems like more than a coincidence.
Eddie Kellam would have turned 47 on Tuesday, March 23. Muscular dystrophy cut that time short, leaving him just shy of age 17.
Although Eddie passed away years ago, his brother Rob has never stopped missing his best friend, which is part of the reason he’s stayed involved with the Muscular Dystrophy Association. Next week, he’ll be a jailbird with a purpose at the MDA lock-up from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Wednesday, March 31, at Buffalo Wild Wings, Bay Road, Dover.
Kellam and others will be served warrants for their arrest and committed to the minimum-security restaurant until friends, family and community members come through and pay their bail. When those jailbirds are sprung free, the volunteer bailiffs will go out to more offices and homes to round up the next group of prisoners.
Kellam said prisoners will be calling people to raise bail, but also hopes that restaurant patrons will be charitable even if they don’t know the people imprisoned.
There could be up to 100 prisoners locked away with only MDA-approved bread and water and a mug shot to keep them company. It’s pretty cushy for jail, Kellam said.
“The more fun we have with it, the more exciting it’s going to be,” he said.
Kellam and his family have been involved with the MDA in a number of ways, from the Eastern Harley-Davidson Dealers Association’s Ride for Life that raised more than $750,000 to founding Hogstock Live, an all-day music fest in Dover last September.
The memory of what his brother went through, and what the MDA did for their family, keeps Kellam involved.
Then 7-year-old Eddie was diagnosed with Dechenne muscular dystrophy in spring 1970. That type of muscular dystrophy is caused by an absence of dystrophyn, a protein that helps keep muscle cells intact, according to the MDA. It is usually marked by a generalized weakness and muscle wasting, and progresses to all voluntary muscles, the heart and breathing muscles.
Kellam remembers vividly how DMD affected his brother, and how the MDA helped. First it was by providing leg braces and a back brace. Eventually it was with a walker and wheelchair. Eddie also bounced around to find the right accommodations.
While the family lived in Milford, Eddie transferred to Sussex County Orthopedic School at Seaford Central Elementary, which was equipped for handicapped children. In 1976, the family moved to Dover so Eddie could attend the Dover Orthopedic School at William Henry Middle School and their father could be closer to work. It was that year that Eddie became the poster child for the Delaware Chapter of the MDA, and appeared on the Jerry Lewis Telethon.
Kellam said his brother loved writing, recording music, playing cards and watching birds. He longed for a van with a chair lift so when he got his driver’s license he could be free to come and go like his peers.
Being a “normal” teenager was something the MDA helped his brother accomplish, Kellam said. Eddie attended camp funded by the MDA, where he could be just relax, talk to his peers and swim.
“Just having a life preserver put around him and being able to get in the pool, he was able to move freely and he loved that,” Kellam said.
Kellam said his family, including his sisters Kim Handy and Jacqueline Kellam, became stronger and more compassionate as a result of Eddie. Kellam still is inspired by his brother’s positive attitude in the face of defeat.
“Eddie’s life was a great example of making positive choices,” he said. “While he could not overcome a genetic disease, he could work through even the most difficult problems in life and find happiness. He made a choice to be positive and the effects of his positive energy and thoughts are still living on today.”
Whether it was giving Eddie the chance to swim or providing moral and financial support, Kellam credits the MDA for helping his brother stay positive. So 30 years after his brother’s death, Kellam keeps supporting the organization.
Regional director Stephanie Goldklang said Kellam is an excellent advocate for the organization, and a great person to act as celebrity prisoner for the lock-up.
Proceeds from the event go to MDA programs in Southern Maryland and Delaware.
Email Sarika Jagtiani at firstname.lastname@example.org