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Wyatt’s Ride fundraiser held for 5-year-old battling rare disease

Five-year-old Greenville native Wyatt Watkins is a cheerier kid than most, even in the face of adversity that would make many adults buckle.

Two years ago, then-three-year-old Wyatt was diagnosed with chronic intestinal pseudo-obstruction (CIPO), a very rare and disabling gastro-intestinal disease that affects less than 100 kids each year.

The disease alters the digestion process of food, meaning nutritional requirements can’t be adequately met.

Given the rarity of the condition, Wyatt’s parents, Brittany and Jay Watkins, also of Greenville, have traveled the United States in search of aid from motility specialists in Atlanta, Columbus, Ohio, and various other locations.

Friend of the family Abbey Newton and others among the Butler County have coordinated to create a fundraiser called Wyatt’s Ride, in which they aim to assist the Watkins family in their traveling and medical expenses via a raffling of a pair of four wheelers, a Kawasaki Bayou 250 and a Yamaha Bruin 350.

Though Newton isn’t directly related to the Watkins by blood, she’s family all the same.

“I may as well be,” Newton said. My children and I have grown up with his grandmother, Cindy Watkins.  And Brittany and I are very good friends.   Wyatt and my son are in the same class, so they’ve grown up together.”

And though Wyatt has experienced a close approximation of normal childhood life, monthly trips to hospitals both near and far complicate the bigger picture.  The disease has since begun to move into Wyatt’s small intestine and stomach, paralyzing his colon and causing him to be medically dependent on alternative digestion methods.

After many surgeries and months in and out of the hospital, he is no longer dependent on IV feeds.

He is still being treated for side effects due to CIPO and he’s also undergoing a genetic study in Cincinnati, Ohio, in addition to monthly infusions in Birmingham to replace the nutrients that his intestines and stomach are not able to digest.

But despite having a multitude of concerns atypical of a five-year-old student, Wyatt’s maintained a rather sunny disposition through it all.

“Honestly, if he were standing in front of you, you wouldn’t know anything is wrong with him,” Newton said.

“Of course, he has iron infusions, so he has to miss a little bit of school.  But he’s a pretty upbeat, strong child.  He does very well, and he’s got the biggest smile on his face after he comes out of all of the surgeries he’s had. So he is a very strong, inspirational child. It would make you change your outlook if you saw him and what he’s gone through and for him to have a smile on his face at the end of the day.”

Tickets in the four-wheeler raffle went on sale beginning this Tuesday, and will remain on sale for $10 through Dec. 8.

A drawing will be held at First Steps on Dec. 9, where Wyatt himself will pull the winning raffle from the box.  The winner will receive a pair of four-wheelers.

The winner does not have to be present to win.

Tickets can be purchased at Randy’s Collision Center in Fort Deposit (Abbey Newton), Guardian Credit Union in Greenville (Christy Seale) and First Steps in Greenville (Lisa Nimmer).

An account for Wyatt has been set up at Guardian Credit Union in Greenville for any donations.

For more information, contact Newton at 334-392-1797.