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Ardrey Kell High athlete runs to help his friend

It was chance that brought Nick Kapur and Dakota Price together, but great things have developed from their meeting at Muscular Dystrophy Association summer camp this year.

Kapur, 17, an Ardrey Kell High School senior who lives in the Providence Country Club area, was looking for a service project for Knights in Action, a program open to students at Ardrey Kell.

To be inducted into the Royal Order of the Purple Knights in the program, a student must complete 25 hours of community service each year, for a total of 100 hours.

Kapur chose the Muscular Dystrophy Summer Camp at Camp Bethelwoods in York, S.C., as his project this summer.

His interest in disabilities peaked when he worked on a stem cell research paper his junior year.

"I thought MDA was a great cause, so I decided to assist with their one-week sleepover camp for kids," said Kapur.

It was at the summer camp this year where he met Dakota, an 11-year-old student at Carr Elementary School in Gastonia.

Dakota has Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy, the most common lethal genetic disorder diagnosed during early childhood. DMD, which affects boys almost exclusively, causes loss of muscle function and independence. There currently is no cure.

Dakota was a camper and Kapur was his counselor.

"I did my research and thought I knew a lot about muscular dystrophy and MDA camp, but I wasn't ready for what I found," said Kapur.

Kapur learned a lot from Dakota, and the two became camp "buddies."

"It was a one-on-one camp and I assisted him in everything he did," said Kapur.

Dakota loved to fish and to swim.

"He wanted to fish every day, but one day I convinced him to play hockey," said Kapur. "He made goals and did a great job."

"Being a camp counselor allowed me to feel what it is like for children living with Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy," Kapur said. "I wanted to continue my friendship and help my buddy Dakota, even after camp ended."

So Kapur put his talents to work.

Kapur is an athlete - a runner - and he's fast. He won the Oct. 21 Individual Conference Championship for the Southwest 4A in cross country, finishing 2 seconds ahead of his nearest competitor. He is one of the captains on the Ardrey Kell High School cross country team. The team, also a conference champion, ranked in the top 5 in 4A in North Carolina.

Last year, Kapur's coach, Brian Zelk, suggested the team be involved with helping less-fortunate children. Kapur approached his coach with a plan.

As a result of Kapur's suggestion, the Ardrey Kell High School cross country team will "go the distance" on Dec. 11 for Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy.

Both the boys' and the girls' cross country teams will run the Thunder Road Half-Marathon and the Presbyterian Jingle Jog 5k as a Run for Our Sons team.

Run for Our Sons is a fundraising project created by Parent Project Muscular Dystrophy, a nonprofit organization dedicated to improving the lives of those living with DMD.

Dakota and his family plan to come to the race.

Dakota's 10-year-old sister, Destiny, will run the 5k with the team: "That makes this event even more special," said Kapur.

Kapur said he knows the financial support the students raise for research will one day help kids like Dakota.

Dakota and kids like him can also use funds for more immediate needs; his family needs to adapt a van to accommodate the power wheelchair Dakota uses.

Kapur has found a way to help, he said, and hopes others will support his cause.