on September 22, 2016 by in Golden News, Comments Off on ‘He has taken away all the excuses’

‘He has taken away all the excuses’

Standley Lake sophomore Jack Knight was born with Duchenne muscular dystrophy, an incurable genetic disease that causes muscle weakness and eventually robs patients of their ability to walk, move their arms, and care for themselves. But the diagnosis doesn’t stop the 16-year-old from doing one of the things he loves – marching band.

“I think he has taken away all the excuses,” Standley Lake band director Crissy Duran said. “I feel like everyone works a little harder when they’re around Jack.”

Two years ago, Knight lost his ability to walk and is now permanently in an electric wheelchair. He and his service dog, a golden retriever named Amber, have been inseparable for the past eight years and are starting their second season marching with the Gators.

“When I joined the marching band, it was only natural that Amber join, too,” Knight said, adding that the dog has been going to school with him fulltime since third grade.

Amber is there to relieve stress and help Knight feel more calm. She picks things up when Knight drops them. And she presses the handicap access button to open doors.

“Also, girls talk to me because they want to pet dog,” Knight said, laughing and smiling while sitting in the backyard of his Westminster home.

The Gator marching band performed its first halftime show for the 2016 season on Sept. 17. With a rig his dad built to hold his mellophone – an instrument similar to the French horn – and Amber in her uniform by his side, the duo hit the field with their team.

This year, band director Duran is doing a few things differently, including giving Amber a little more space on the field.

“She’s absolutely a member of the band,” Duran said. And by being part of formation, she teaches students to assert themselves. “She doesn’t move for them unless they make her move. She gets kids to find their voice and find confidence.”

In practice, Duran has been working with Knight on his speed and changing directions on the field, incorporating fundamental skills to give him the same physical challenges as other band members.

But more than the formations on the field and the music played, Duran said Knight has increased the band’s sense of family.

“In a marching band there is always that feeling of taking care of each other and Jack brings that to a whole new level,” Duran said. “For me as a director, he has taught me to be more thoughtful about each students’ individual needs, challenges and successes. He’s a very important member of our marching band.”



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