Great Barrington —Twelve-year-old Maisy Seckler was gushing and effervescent last week when I met up with the sixth grader over lunch — a decidedly plain bagel with lox — at Barrington Bagel. She was joined by her mother, Tracy Seckler, the subject of her winning essay in the 2017 Real Women Essay Contest.
“[We have] something different that not all mothers and daughters have,” said the younger Seckler of the relationship she and her mom share. “[It’s like we’re] best friends” and then “sometimes she gets on my nerves,” Maisy explained, her brown eyes full, while exhibiting the easy-going, opinionated and sensitive qualities her mother so admires. When asked about her mother’s best qualities, Maisy gesticulated wildly while pondering her response. The answer–powerful, funny and impactful — ultimately served as the foundation for Maisy’s winning essay.
“Tracy does not need any fictional superpowers to change the world,” said Maisy of her mother. “On a daily basis she is helping to save the lives of boys who suffer from Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy, which to me is about as heroic as it gets.” Seckler and her husband, Dr. Benjy Seckler, founded Charley’s Fund in 2004. Since that time they have raised more than $36 million to combat the leading genetic killer of boys in the world, a disease that is 100 percent fatal and for which there is no cure. Their 16-year-old son Charley, Maisy’s older brother, has been living with DMD since he was 3 years old.
“I love English; it is my favorite class,” Maisy said. As to her passion for writing? “I like to write when I am passionate about the subject.” The pre-teen explained she likes classes where she can be “active, [and] talk” which caused the mother-daughter pair to simultaneously erupt into a fit of laughter. Maisy is a student in Kim Cormier’s English class at Monument Valley Middle School, where she has enjoyed learning about overcoming adversity through the Civil Rights Movement this year. “Maisy is the type of student that every teacher dreams of,” said Cormier. “She is very bright, hard-working, empathetic, and not afraid to stand up for what she believes in; having her as a student makes me a better teacher,” she added. Cormier recognized that Maisy “worked tirelessly” to write the inspiring essay for which she won first place in her age group; she won an honorable mention in the same contest last year.
For the Secklers, life is hectic and busy. Their oldest son is driving and their middle son is in the school musical. Maisy plays soccer, tennis and she is a skier; she also plays the bass clarinet, and she is currently ensconced in Hebrew tutoring in preparation for her Bat Mitzvah which will happen in November. “It’s fun — we’re in a sweet spot,” said Tracy who, when asked how she finds a balance between her work with Charley’s Fund and her home life responded, “I’m not sure that I do.”
As I prepare to leave, the pair erupts in a fit of laughter once again. There is a man sitting behind me, Tracy explains, wearing a baseball hat with the Hebrew symbol for “chai” and the number five. “High five,” she explains to me, noting that it’s a very well known Hebrew symbol that means “life.” How fitting for this pair — this family — living fully, in the present, despite the presence of adversity. As to her family’s fight for DMD? “It’s made me realize I can achieve any of my goals, even with lots of setbacks and obstacles to push through,” Maisy said. And her parting thought: “Don’t sell yourself short.” This, Maisy decides, would be her Mom’s motto if she had one. A motto — and an attitude — for which they both deserve a congratulatory high-five.
The 31st annual Real Women Essay Contest, generously underwritten by the Gladys Allen Brigham Community Center in Pittsfield, is a creative writing competition open to all students grades K-12 in Berkshire County. The contest stems from the fact that “we all have real women in our lives whom we respect and admire;” the annual call for submissions is a poignant opportunity to share this person’s life with the community. The winners of this year’s contest were recognized at an awards celebration on March 29th, at Berkshire Community College in Pittsfield.
Maisy Seckler’s winning essay in the ‘Real Women’ contest:
Most people see a superwoman in one of two ways: as a fictional character who uses her superpowers to save the world or as someone who is able to excel at the high demands brought about by her career, marriage, and family. I however would add a third category to that whose sole member is Tracy Seckler. Tracy does not need any fictional superpowers to change the world. On a daily basis she is helping to save the lives of boys who suffer from Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy which to me, is about as heroic as it gets. She has raised millions of dollars for charity and revolutionized the FDA, while managing to corral her three rowdy children at home. She has told the world that she will never stop fighting for what she believes in. She is the epitome of what a superwoman should be, but most importantly to me, she is a supermom.
As a young girl, Tracy’s dream was to grow up, get married, have a family, and become an English teacher – but life had other plans for her. After graduating from college, Tracy had an envious life. She married a successful doctor and had three beautiful children. Her perfect life was turned upside down however in 2004 when her son Charley was diagnosed with Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy (DMD). DMD is the leading genetic killer of boys in the world, causes children to lose their ability to walk in their early teens, and live no longer than their mid-20s. It is 100 percent fatal and there is no cure. Receiving devastating news like that would cripple most people, but not Tracy. She decided from that very moment that she would make it her life’s mission to find a cure for this deadly disease. Since that time, she has created a non-profit organization called Charley’s Fund, raised over 30 million dollars for research, and successfully taken on the FDA to approve life-saving drugs for DMD. Because of her hard work, Charley is a typical and happy 16 year old who does not need a wheelchair, has an active social life, and is very successful in school.
Besides raising millions of dollars and fighting for the rights of children that she does not even know, Tracy finds time to just be my mom. The little things that she does for me are what keep me from getting lost in the tornado of her work. She is always there to tuck me in at night, help me with my homework, and listen when I want to talk, which is quite frequently. She makes me feel special and as important as the work that she is doing for DMD. This may seem like an average thing for a mom to do, but it means the world to me. Knowing that she will put down the immensely important work that she is doing to chat with her daughter for five minutes is what makes her a superwoman. My Superwoman. I love you mom.