Southwest Gas employees are pulling together to offer support to the family of Evan Breton, a one-year-old Bullhead City child, and son of local Southwest Gas Sales Representative Garth Breton.
Evan is a happy baby and a natural ham. When the camera comes out, he beams. His dark eyes glisten, and a smile extends beyond his mouth as his whole face lightens with joy. Breton is in the early stages of trying to talk, babbling as if any adult nearby should understand.
At first glance, you'd never notice that he seldom kicks, or that he has trouble holding his head up straight. It isn't until you speak to his parents, Garth and Skarleth Breton, do you learn that he can't.
Evan Breton will never be able to do those things. He has recently been diagnosed with Spinal Muscular Atrophy (SMA). In fact, the little muscle control that he has now, he will lose. Even more sadly, there is no treatment and no cure.
SMA is a rare form of muscular dystrophy. Breton's pediatrician claims to have only seen one other case in his professional career and that was 17 years ago. His parents have been told that their son is the only known case in Mohave County.
The disease, the number one genetic killer of children under the age of two, destroys the nerves that control voluntary movement, which affects crawling, walking, head and neck control and even swallowing. The Bretons have been told by doctors that their son will eventually succumb to the disease. For the Bretons, every additional day provides a glimmer of hope for a cure.
According to Skarleth, she and husband Garth are carriers of the disease, a requirement for any of their offspring to be afflicted. There was only a one in four chance that any of their children would acquire the disease.
"We're coping pretty well," said Garth. "Of course, we were shocked when doctors at Children's Hospital in Phoenix explained their findings to us. And we were truly saddened when we learned that the disease is almost always fatal, especially for infants.
"After the initial shock wore off, we decided the time we had left with our son would be quality time, we want to make every minute count."
The Bretons won't have to go through this time alone. Their faith is strong and they have support from friends, including the employees of the Bullhead City District office of Southwest Gas, where Garth is a sales representative.
For the last month, members of the Southwest Gas Employee Volunteer Team (EVT) have been meeting after work to build a playhouse, called the "Blue Bayou Shack", (because of its color). The playhouse will be raffled off October 21, during the annual Hardyville Days celebration. Proceeds from the raffle will be donated to "Families of SMA", the largest international organization dedicated to eradicating the disease.
The playhouse is anything but ordinary. The structure stands 15 feet high, and sets on an eight-foot by eight-foot platform, with an open four-foot by eight-foot porch and windows on each side.
"We had to do something for Evan and we all wanted to help," said Yvonne Montoya, EVT member and project coordinator. "Evan is our Southwest Gas angel.
"The employees of Southwest Gas in Bullhead City are like a family, especially when it comes to our kids. When one of us is in trouble, we all want to help."
The Mohave Valley Contractors Association provided the building materials for the project, and Garth, along with Yvonne, Mike Higgins, Adam Nicander, and Chris Montoy have been working two hours every Tuesday and Thursday after work at the Southwest Gas warehouse to complete the project.
"This is a terrific company," said Garth. "There are so many good causes in the community. It was a terrific gesture by the employees to do this for Evan. It shows they really do care about one another and our community.
"Skarleth's sister Mariam Barth, is the only family either of us has in the community. The employees have been a tremendous inspiration to us."
According to Montoya, the committee hopes to put the playhouse on display several times during the next few months to promote ticket sales.
"We haven't quite figured out how we're going to move the house," said Montoya. "We'll have to use a forklift and a flat-bed truck to move it."
The group has 1,000 tickets printed and hopes to raise $3,000 before the playhouse is raffled off in October. Tickets can be purchased at Southwest Gas, 1705 Langford Drive, from Yvonne Montoya or Garth Breton for $5 each, or three for $10. Checks should be made out to Spinal Muscular Atrophy.