The Yelm community came out in force to support 21-year-old Jeren Pollock during a 139-car parade that took place on Saturday, Jan. 8 outside of his Yelm home where Pollock has been confined for two years in at-home hospice care.
Pollock has Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy, which causes muscle degeneration through the altering of certain proteins, which help maintain muscle growth, said Tad DesVoignes, who learned about the condition while he was Pollock’s school bus driver.
The disease is considered incurable, so those with Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy fight to slow its progress through physical therapy and steroids, DesVoignes said.
“It was about six years ago when I first met Jeren,” DesVoignes said. “At that time, he still had control of most of his right hand and from the base of his neck up. He was already a pro at driving around in his motorized wheelchair.”
He said Pollock could navigate through the tight confines of the school bus with no issues.
“He was better at backing up without being able to turn his head around than most people I know, myself included,” said DesVoignes.
He described Pollock as “a smart kid” who would “often help new bus drivers and aides with how best to secure his chair to the bus.”
DesVoignes said Pollock is kind and compassionate, though he didn’t hesitate to point out DesVoignes’ “horrible driving” in a joking manner when he was on the bus.
Pollock is said to have loved school, though DesVoignes suspects his devotion to the institution was more social than academic.
“He was always bummed when he couldn’t make it to school,” DesVoignes said. “When the pandemic hit he stayed home for his remaining time in school, cut off from those friendships.”
When the community rallied together to give Pollock a little taste of the social atmosphere he’s been missing, it “was a small way to get back a little bit of that social friendship,” DesVoignes said.
Above all, DesVoignes said the outpouring of love from the community was huge for Pollock.
“He was also able to see a few close friends from school that were able to attend,” he said. “So many friends, family and community members that (know) him (were) in attendance. It meant a lot to him.”
In the end, the parade wasn’t only a heart-warming vehicle for Pollock’s support, but something that helped the community as well.
“It was so nice to have something like this parade for the community,” DesVoignes said. “It seemed to have brought people closer together for a positive outcome, rather than concentrating on the things dividing us from our neighbors. We were finally all united for a good cause.”
The unofficial tally for participants in the parade reached 139 cars, though the actual count could be a little higher given the routes some of the vehicles took, DesVoignes said.
“Jeren and his entire family were very thankful and appreciative of all the participation and excitement from everyone,” he said. “The outpouring of love went both ways. It was very nice to see. I heard from (his mom) Sheila (Russell) that Jeren not only couldn’t stop smiling the entire time, but that he also said ‘hi’ to every single one of the passing cars.”
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