The Muscular Dystrophy Association thinks the children at Camelot Academy are a jump above others. Camelot children have hopped for sick little children for three years. Last year, the children's Hop-A-Thon raised about $1,000 for the association.

The youngsters collected pledges for each hop they made during the Hop-A-Thon. Michelle Itchon was top fundraiser last year with a total of $152. Her sister, Monica, was close on her tired heels, earning $125.Many parents and friends of the students underestimated how many consecutive hops the children could manage. Mike Schnabel, co-owner of Camelot Academy, said, "The kids hop while at least one person counts for them. And a lot of parents were surprised at how long those kids could hop!"

"The children really enjoyed this, and we received a lot of support from the parents," said Maela Jacobsen, co-owner and director of the school. "We've been studying about the community, and this is another way to let the children know they can be involved and help others."

The children recently enjoyed a visit from the Muscular Dystrophy Hop-A-Thon bunny to prepare them for their day of bouncing and jumping. The bunny told the children about muscular dystrophy and how they were helping sick children by having the Hop-A-Thon.

David Ricketts, program coordinator of the Salt Lake Muscular Dystrophy Association, said there are over 40 different muscle diseases covered by the MDA. "We provide free wheelchairs, motorized beds and instruments to hold a pencil for our patients," he said. The money raised by the Hop-A-Thons during March and April goes for research, support groups and summer camps.

A recent medical breakthrough has brought delight to the MDA. Ricketts explained that the form of dystrophy called "Duchenne" that affects about half of all muscular dystrophy victims is caused by the lack of the protein dystrophin in muscle cells. Almost exclusively a male disorder, the disease causes the wasting away of muscles and most victims die before their mid-20s.

The missing protein was isolated and, in tests with mice that couldn't make the protein in their muscles, after injection with dystrophin, their cells began to produce it. "By summer, we anticipate being able to begin injecting human sufferers with this solution," Ricketts said.

But the research is expensive. The MDA is grateful for the fund-raising efforts of the community. There are now over 80 schools participating in the 1989 Hop-A-Thon. The MDA office can provide information about how school children can aid in the fight against muscular dystrophy. Call the Salt Lake office at 944-1661 for further information.