FARMINGTON Greg Cathey strapped his 13-month-old son, Glenn, to his back and joined his wife and older son for a one-mile walk on Saturday.

The first-ever Children With Hope Walk at Animas Park held a special meaning for the Farmington family. Proceeds from the walk benefit San Juan Medical Foundation's Hope Children's Fund, which provides money for families who have to travel outside San Juan County for their children's medical care.

"This fills in the gaps of what insurance can't cover," said Tim Montoya, the foundation's president.

For instance, the fund covers the cost of gas, lodging and food.

Although they have not benefited from the fund, the Catheys know what it is like to travel to Albuquerque for medical care.

Participants on Saturday start the Children with Hope Walk at Animas Park in Farmington. Proceeds from the walk benefit the San Juan Medical
Participants on Saturday start the Children with Hope Walk at Animas Park in Farmington. Proceeds from the walk benefit the San Juan Medical Foundation's Hope Children's Fund, which provides financial assistance for families who have to travel outside San Juan County for their children's medical needs. (Jon Austria/The Daily Times)

When Greg Cathey's wife, Camille, was pregnant with Glenn, doctors discovered an abnormality at the 20-week ultrasound.

"At first, they told us he was missing part of his brain," Camille Cathey said.

The family met with a doctor in Albuquerque who told them Glenn had spina bifida, a spinal birth defect. Camille Cathey explained there was a hole in her son's back and his spinal chord was sticking out.

The family relocated to Albuquerque for a month before Glenn's birth in March 2013. There, they met other Farmington families facing similar difficulties. The Catheys passed out brochures for the Hope Children's Fund to these families.

"They do some amazing things to help out with children," Camille Cathey said of the fund.

The mother said she feels fortunate because Glenn's case of spina bifida is mild, and he will someday walk.

For now, Glenn attends physical therapy twice a week and occupational therapy once a month.

When the family learned Glenn would not be "normal," Camille Cathey said they were initially shocked.

"Once you get used to it, it's no big deal," she said.

The San Juan Medical Foundation and various parent-teacher organizations organized Saturday's walk.

Carrie Olson, the Parent-Teacher Organization president for McKinley Elementary School, also works at the San Juan Medical Foundation. She said a lot of the parents in the PTO wanted to help the cause, and she thought it was a good chance to teach children about giving back.

"It's children helping children," Olson explained.

The foundation sent information about the walk to schools in the area, including the school associated with Desert Heights Community Church, where Camille Cathey works as the children's program director.

Camille Cathey said the school is so small they decided to get the entire church involved. The church group made green shirts for walk participants.

Grady and Jessica Williams and their three children attended the walk because of the church's efforts.

Jessica Williams' mother and niece have cystic fibrosis, and the family participates in the annual cystic fibrosis walk in Farmington. Jessica Williams said her mother and niece both travel outside San Juan County for treatment.

Her mother developed cystic fibrosis at age 50, after Grady and Jessica Williams already had their three children, ages 10, 8 and 6. Because the condition is genetic, the couple had their children tested and were relieved the results came back negative.

"It was a lot of learning," Jessica Williams said. "We didn't really know about the disease until our family members started to get it."

Hannah Grover covers news, arts and religion for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4652 and hgrover@daily-times.com. Follow her @hmgrover on Twitter.