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FARMINGTON — Thanks in part to customers who gave an extra dollar at convenience stores throughout San Juan County this year, 36 New Mexican kids fighting muscular dystrophy are going to a camp later this month.

More than 250 participating Western Refining convenience stores throughout the Southwest raised more than $500,000 during the Muscular Dystrophy Association's summer camp mobile program. From April 28 until June 8, 34 Giant, Mustang and Sundial stores in and around San Juan County sold $1 and $5 pin-up mobiles and contributed approximately $95,000 to the nonprofit organization, which has a state office in Albuquerque.

R.C. Sprouse, Western Refining vice president of retail, said the drive was a collective effort that will positively impact kids from all over the state.

"What a tremendous accomplishment by the store management, employees, and customers. We exceeded our target significantly due to the generosity of our customers and the efforts of our employees — great job by all," Sprouse said. "It is with their generosity that we will be able to help give some amazing kids a chance to build self-confidence and develop independence in an environment where anything is possible at MDA summer camp."

The children, ages 6 to 18 who are affected by neuromuscular diseases, will attend the week-long camp at Monzano Mountain Retreat in Torreon starting July 26.

Katy Pirtle, fundraising coordinator for MDA of New Mexico, said the donations from Western Refining stores make the camp, which takes kids at no charge to their families, possible.

"The camp is the best week of the year for the kids who attend it," Pirtle said. "It's a week where they get to feel normal and not the 'oddball out' because of their disability."

MDA of New Mexico serves approximately 900 people of all ages who have been diagnosed with the muscle disease that commonly limits strength, breathing and mobility. There is no cure for the disease, which has many forms and can be life threatening.

Pirtle said Western Refining has participated in the campaign for four years, collectively adding more than $1 million to the organization for the camp, and to research for a cure and to investments in MDA clinics and other programs.

"We're so thankful that Western really got behind the campaign and made such a difference," she said. "The fact that these kids go kayaking, even if they can't hold their head up, they get to experience things that build them up and teach them that nothing's going to hold them back."

James Fenton is the business editor of The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4621 and jfenton@daily-times.com. Follow him @fentondt on Twitter.

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