SIDNEY — In 2013, Austin Owens was a typical 7-year-old doing sports and activities like others his age until one fateful day he was wrestling at a meet when trainers believed he had a seizure. A trip to the hospital and a number of tests revealed this was only the tip of the iceberg for a life-changing battle for Austin and his family.
The Owens family soon learned Austin had a rare, progressive genetic brain disease, Adrenoleukodystrophy (ALD). ALD is a genetic condition that damages the membrane (myelin sheath) that covers nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord. Myelin acts as insulation around the nerve fibers. When this insulating layer is damaged, nerve signals from the brain cannot communicate across the body properly, causing impaired bodily functions or paralysis. ALD is most severe when found in children. So rare, only one in 20,000 people are living with the gene that causes the disorder.
Austin’s life went from typical to atypical very quickly as the disease and all of the complications related to it progressed. In 2014, at age 8, Owens received a bone marrow transplant in an effort to treat the disease to slow its effect.
Austin’s dad Scott started a Facebook group — Austin’s Mighty Angels — to provide updates to family and friends. The group has grown to include many community members who check in on Austin, wish him a happy birthday each year, and keep in touch with the Owens family. The Facebook group is open to the public to join.
Today, Austin is wheelchair-bound. He most enjoys being outside and watching the Columbus Blue Jackets hockey.
His condition prevents him from going to school, so Sidney City Schools teacher Alysha Kroeger and physical therapist Tricia Yahl make regular home visits to work with Austin.
“Austin just turned 16 and we thought it would be fun to celebrate with his friends and the community at the ballpark,” said Yahl.
And so, plans are underway for a special event to honor Austin. On May 10, 2022, the Owens family will be at Sidney’s junior varsity baseball game at the Sidney athletic complex. The hope is that Austin, with the help of his family, will be able to throw out the first pitch. The baseball game is set to start at 5:30 p.m.
The community is invited to attend the game and show Austin their support. A T-shirt sale is underway leading up to the game to benefit the Owens family: https://austinsangels22.itemorder.com/shop/sale/.
Austin’s Mighty Angel bracelets will also be for sale at the game.