Hope for Gus founder Tonya Dreher receives the 2022 Greg Farrell Award

Congratulations to Tonya Dreher, founder of the Hope for Gus Foundation

We are delighted to announce that Tonya Dreher has been named as the recipient of the 2022 Greg Farrell Award. Tonya will be presented with the Award during an online ceremony that will take place Wednesday, March 8 at 7:30 pm.The ceremony will also pay tribute to the other 2022 nominees, each of whom is doing inspirational work that is truly worthy of recognition.

Tonya Dreher, award recipient and Hope For Gus founder

This annual Award honors the life and legacy of Gregory (Greg) Rowland Farrell. Greg, who passed away in the spring of 2020, left an indelible mark on the fields of education, philanthropy and government. Among his many accomplishments, Greg was a founder of NYC Outward Bound Schools and EL Education (formerly Expeditionary Learning) and the Executive Director of the Fund for the City of New York. The Award was established by a group of Greg’s former colleagues at NYC Outward Bound Schools, each of whom was inspired and nurtured by him. The group serves as the Award’s Selection Committee. Previous Award recipients include Pascale Florestal (2020)and Moses Ssenyonjo (2021).

In choosing Tonya from among a stellar group of nominees, the Selection Committee was especially inspired and impressed by the remarkable work she is doing to combat Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy (DMD), a terminal disease her son was diagnosed with a dozen years ago. Like Greg, she is a relentless visionary who overcomes obstacles to get things done, always with conviction, creativity, and above all, compassion. She has been tremendously tenacious and entrepreneurial in her efforts — establishing, with her husband, Steve, the Hope for Gus Foundation to raise awareness and fund research for a cure or treatment for DMD. Soon after establishing the foundation,  Tonya launched her flagship fundraiser, “Everest to End Duchenne,” leading treks to Mount Everest base camp as a potent symbol of the physical limitations boys with Duchenne face. 

In ways similar to Greg, Tonya graciously lights sparks along her path to combat DMD. While organizing service projects in Kathmandu, she learned that boys with Muscular Dystrophy lacked an accessible home. Tonya organized a crowdfunding campaign among DMD foundations, individuals and organizations to raise the money needed to build a home so that the boys can live and learn in a safe environment. She is now working to raise funds to supply equipment, learning materials and technology so they can experience more freedom and continue their education despite the inaccessibility of schools. Likewise, upon learning of the lack of teachers and supplies at her guides’ village schools in rural Nepal, Tonya connected the village to an organization that funded the hiring of teachers and educational materials.

In addition, with echoes of Greg, who devoted a good portion of his latter years to lovingly tending to his wife who had developed Alzheimer’s disease, Tonya is a caregiver for someone with Alzheimer’s.

It is powerfully affirming to know that Tonya and her fellow nominees are carrying Greg’s legacy forward through their extraordinary work. We look forward to celebrating them in an online ceremony on Wednesday, March 8 at 7:30 pm.

This article was originally published on NYC Outward Bound.

The Drehers reach Everest base camp

The team made it to Base Camp – they took out the flag that they’ve been carrying and they read the names of hundreds of people afflicted with Duchenne. 

In hope for… 

In memory of…

I have done that twice, on the top of Mount Whitney in California and on the top of Breccia Peak in Wyoming. Both times I had a really hard time making it through the list because I thought about what each name meant. What it meant to each person – their pain, their dreams, their ambitions, what it meant to each family and what it meant to every person who loved them.

Tonya sent me a picture of Abe and her at Base Camp. I found myself looking at another photo that we have on our bedroom wall. It’s a picture of Abe and Tonya, taken before Gus was diagnosed. But also taken before Tonya was diagnosed with breast cancer. 

When Gus was 2 and Abe was 4, Tonya found a small lump. She went to one doctor who said not to worry and then she went to another who wanted it tested. The first doctor was wrong. She had stage 3 cancer. The surgeon who realized that it was stage 3 came to me after surgery in tears. “We didn’t expect this,” she said. Tonya began 18 months of treatment. It was 4 surgeries, four months of intensive chemo, 2 months of radiation and one year of Herceptin infusions. Often, during those 18 months, as Tonya recovered from chemo or one of her surgeries, I would sit alone and look at that photo of Tonya and Abe. I’d wonder if that would be his memory of her. We didn’t know if she would survive.

But we did have Herceptin. Just three years earlier, it had been approved to treat Her-2 positive cancer. Tonya’s oncologist called it a “miracle drug.” “Herceptin has turned a highly fatal form of cancer into a very manageable one,” he told us.

So, as I look at that picture of Tonya and Abe at Base Camp, I think about how miraculous it is that Tonya, that same woman who battled breast cancer 12 years ago, has now taken 4 teams to Everest Base camp. I think about the fact that Tonya and Abe are making yet another memory together on this trek, along with Tonya’s dear friend Jill Pearson and Abe’s best friend, Fletcher Maggs. 

But mostly, I think about the fact that miracles are possible. The money that Tonya has raised over the years (and will continue raising) may help develop a drug for all those kids on the flag. Doctor’s will call it a miracle drug because it will turn Duchenne, a terminal illness, into a manageable disease. When we say, “In hope for,” that’s what we mean. We hope for a miracle – but it isn’t a naïve hope. We know that miracles happen, we’ve seen it. 

Hope for Gus Foundation Board Member Killed in Tragic Bicycle Accident


Tonya Dreher
Executive Director
The Hope for Gus Foundation

Hope for Gus Foundation Board Member Killed in Tragic Bicycle Accident

The Hope for Gus Foundation is deeply saddened to announce the untimely passing of one of their founding board members, Kent J. Wosepka of Hamilton, MA. Kent was tragically struck by a vehicle in Texas while on a cross country bike tour with his fiancé, Betsy O’Brien.  He died on Oct 31 from injuries sustained in the crash.

Kent was a philanthropist, adventurer, artist, loving father, and champion of many causes.  He supported Hope for Gus whole-heartedly since its inception and was an incredible source of strength and friend to the Dreher Family and their son, Gus, who suffers from Duchenne muscular dystrophy.

In 2016, Kent traveled to Morocco to run the Marathon des Sables as a charity event for Hope for Gus.  The race was 160 miles across the Sahara Desert and is self-supported, with participants carrying all their food and equipment over the full distance of sand dunes, mountain trails and salt flats.  There were over 1200 people participating and Kent finished ninth in the American category. 

After retiring from a successful career in finance in 2017, Kent served on several boards, was an adjunct professor at Boston College,  delighted in adventure and travel (often with his beloved children), and dove into his painting which has been displayed in galleries throughout the North Shore of Massachusetts.  You can view his art here .

Tonya Dreher, director of HFG, remembers Kent as “ an interminable force of goodness, adventure, love and kindness.”  She shared, “Kent made people feel important and loved. He was a bright light, and the world is a better place because he existed.”

Kent knew Gus Dreher from birth and was quick to support both the family after Gus’ diagnosis, and the mission of Hope for Gus to fund medical research for Duchenne. Now 16 yr old Gus adored him and says, “He really supported our family and we loved him.”

Kent’s children, Jack, Rose and Connor, have designated the Hope for Gus Foundation as one of the beneficiaries of memorial donations in his honor, for which the foundation and family are truly grateful. Additionally, the foundation will dedicate their 2022 event, Everest to End Duchenne, to Kent Wosepka.  The journey to Everest Base Camp with HFG was one that Kent planned on experiencing one day.  Dreher says, “We will take him with us in spirit, as we trek to raise money for a cause that Kent truly believed in.”

The Hope for Gus Foundation and the Dreher Family extend their deepest condolences to Kent’s loved ones – specifically, his children, Jack, Rose and Conner Wosepka, his life partner and soulmate Betsy O’Brien, his mother Rosalie Wosepka, and his siblings Jonalie and Marc and their families.

One of Kent’s favorite quotes is a question we should all ask ourselves:

“Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?” -Mary Oliver

His obituary can be viewed here.

Contact: Tonya Dreher, Executive Director of HFG



About The Organization:Hope for Gus is based in Peterborough, NH and their mission is to raise research dollars and awareness of Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy. The foundation is also committed to helping those with Duchenne and their families improve their quality of life.

To make a donation in memory of Kent, please click the link below:

A New Year

A brand new year always brings with it new possibilities in our lives and the hope of potential new treatments for DMD.  But,  as Gus’ mom, I  just see one more year that has passed without a  cure   –  one  year closer to him losing the ability to walk, to use his hands, to hug us, and eventually, to breathe. A new year carries with it the same bittersweet quality as each of Gus’ birthdays.  We throw a big party for him and he loves it.  We make him whatever he wants for dinner, and get him a new “Wildlife Ecologist” toy, but underneath it all, our hearts break because we know what age brings for a boy with DMD.

This winter is proving to be particularly difficult.  While Gus wants to be more independent at age 8 ½ , he is  starting to need more assistance. He is a true NH boy who loves the snow, even though dressing up in snow gear is challenging.  It’s also hard for him to move well in snow pants and boots, as they are an extra strain on his muscles, but we bundle him up and take him out. He has to be pulled up the sledding hill, of course, and he often falls off the sled because he doesn’t have the strength to hold on.  Last weekend, Steve and the boys were invited to a sledding party.  Gus was so excited, he could barely stand it!  When they arrived home, though, Steve looked completely deflated.  “It was just another instance where Gus is so clearly unable to keep up with the other kids,” he said.  He then told me that when Gus fell down, he couldn’t get up.  This is new this year, one small step in Gus’ decline.  When he fell and Steve ran up to him, “Are you ok, buddy?”  He responded with the look of death and said, “Dad, go away!”

Even as he insisted on sledding alone, resulting in one crash into a tree and one complete flip over, Steve tried to always stay by his side, invisible, but there.   Steve knew and I know that he probably shouldn’t be sledding at all.  The steroids he takes can cause his bones to be brittle.  But, while he can still walk, how can we deny him this little bit of normalcy?

Clearly, this was all much harder on Steve than Gus.  Gus is used to being a little slower and trying a little harder.  He came home saying that he had a great time.  But even that is heartbreaking; it’s only a matter of time before sledding will be a thing of the past for him.

I asked Gus that night if sledding was hard for him.  He responded, “Not really, why?”  I said, “Well, because your muscular dystrophy sometimes makes it hard to walk up the hill, doesn’t it?”  He gave me the most incredulous look and then he snickered, “Why are you talking about THAT, Mommy?”  In his mind, it was just a normal day.   What we wouldn’t give to stop time right now.

Last night, when I was putting him to bed, Gus asked, “Wouldn’t it be terrible if I broke my arm? “  I told him yes, but a doctor would put a cast on to make it heal.  He said, “But I wouldn’t be able to write, or play with cars, or eat my food or anything!”

 Of course I explained that it would only be for a short time.  But the panic in my heart and mind was intense.  How will we ever explain to him that Duchenne muscular dystrophy will also take these skills away from him and he will never get them back? How can we celebrate the New Year and new opportunities and growth, when our son has a progressive and deadly disease?

But we do.  We do it for him…and for our other children…and for ourselves, really.  Because it is impossible to push forward if we continually think about what the future holds.  We constantly walk the tightrope between being hopeful that we might find a cure or effective treatment, and being in denial.  Maybe this is the year when everything changes.

Happy New Year – and please hug your healthy children close and be thankful!

The Inverted World of Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy

It struck me during a meeting at Gus ’school.  He was in kindergarten, and having some difficulties due to his already weakening muscles – he struggles to hold a pencil correctly, to cut on a line, even to keep his gaze on one spot for an extended time.  The teacher suggested that we “create some goals” to “move Gus forward.”

“It will help us know if Gus is progressing,” his teacher said innocently.  There was a long pause.

“Duchenne muscular dystrophy is degenerative,” Tonya said. “This may be as strong as he gets.   If he doesn’t get weaker – if these things don’t get worse – that’s progress.”

“Well,” the teacher replied patiently, “We need to track progress in the conventional way…”

Every parent of a child with Duchenne muscular dystrophy remembers the moment they heard the diagnosis. Inevitably they asked, “What can we do?”   The simple and unthinkable answer?  “Nothing.”   When we first hear it, however, most of us don’t understand how profound that ‘nothing’ is.  A Duchenne patient cannot exercise to get stronger.  He can’t “work harder to battle the disease…”  It won’t “get better with time.”  Nothing we expect is true.  We are raised to believe that we can surmount any obstacle if we work hard enough.  The challenge of this diagnosis is that ‘working,’ in the way we often think of it, speeds the disease.

One of Gus’ doctors tells the story of a dad who was in the Marines. He was in denial about his son’s illness and insisted on exercising his son’s muscles – unable to accept the idea that exercise would not make his boy stronger. We all know the end of that story:  Through exercise the dad actually accelerated the muscle degeneration and, by implication, brought on his own son’s death sooner.  That harsh, upside down and backwards truth impacts every moment that we spend with our sons.

When I’m asked how Gus is doing these days, I often respond, “OK, but I’ve noticed that he is really starting to struggle going up steps.”  In one sense, I am excited and happy that he can still climb up steps; on the other hand, I hate it every time he does it because I know that every trip up and down is further damaging his muscles.  Birthdays may be the most obvious example of this.  We celebrate the fact that we’ve been blessed with another year with Gus, and we mourn the fact that another of the too few precious years that Gus will be alive has passed.

A friend of mine once said of his DMD boy, “It’s as if my son is a perfect ice sculpture of himself and I desperately want to stop him from melting…”  We both knew, however, to complete the metaphor, that we can’t simply put our sons on ice – they are boys who want to play in the sun.  We let them, and find joy in their vibrancy and life.  They are magic, like Frosty the Snowman.  And like that mythical character, they won’t be held back. “And he said, let’s run and we’ll have some fun now before I melt away…”  So we watch our sons melt because we love them too much not to let them.

Gus’ well-meaning teacher simply didn’t understand.  In the world of DMD, the words “conventional progress” make no sense.  In fact, when it comes to DMD, the only ‘progress’ we can depend upon is the steady ‘progress’ of the disease – which is no progress at all.   It is, of course, the exact opposite, the ongoing regression of a boy’s physical abilities.  It may be that hard reality – coupled with the fact that our boys can’t work to stop this disease, that we, their parents, their community, are driven to work so hard.  As I have often said at fund-raisers, our boys keep us up at night and get us up in the morning.  We create foundations, hold fundraisers and collaborate.  We write letters, lobby the FDA, meet with scientists and try through it all to be the best parents we can be.

At the beginning of this month, The Duchenne Alliance, an international collaboration of DMD focused foundations (www.duchennealliance.org) , has declared June, “Duchenne Awareness Month.”  Through awareness and the increased funding that will inevitably follow, we know that we’ll help scientists right the upside down world of DMD.  Science is close, very close – clinical trials are in process for promising meds and more meds are in the pipeline.  In the end, though, it is about money and political pressure.  It is about us, the parents finding vibrancy and energy and excitement and the subsequent funding that will continue to move this research forward.  But our time is short.  At 8 years old, it is possible that my son has just ten years.  We are in a race against time – the Duchenne Alliance’s motto is United to Beat Time.  We are challenging the nonsense world of DMD with what seems an equally impossible premise – that we can beat time and save our boys.  We will do it, and when we do, progress will mean progress for our children, goals will be possible and we all can dream of their full lives ahead.

The DA Meets!


Boulder, CO, March 11, 2012 – The Duchenne Alliance, a group of nearly 40 international independent foundations focused on Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy, has taken a groundbreaking step toward winning what it calls “the ultimate race against time.”

The leaders of Duchenne non-profit organizations agreed at a meeting last week on the mass implementation of the DUCHENNE DASHBOARD, an innovative research grant management system that will facilitate an unprecedented level of collaboration among the many foundations, patient advocacy groups, and scientists dedicated to finding treatments and cures for Duchenne.  Duchenne is the most common and lethal genetic disease diagnosed in childhood.  There are currently no life extending treatment options for the over 300,000 males worldwide living with the condition, which usually limits life expectancy to the mid 20s.

The Duchenne Dashboard provides scientists and foundations with a single entry point for proposals to advance Duchenne research.   Scientists can use the dashboard to securely submit their projects and member foundations and their scientific advisors can consider and give feedback on them instantly.   The tool also enables foundations to quickly collaborate and contribute funds to promising projects.

“The Duchenne Dashboard is going to radically improve and expedite the scientific process in the field of Muscular Dystrophy.  The non-profit foundations came together and set the new standard for effective biomedical funding,” said Duchenne Dashboard creator Carlo Rago of OpenOnward.  “The platform is now available to all neuromuscular foundations aiming to conquer disease,” he said.

The Duchenne Alliance was formed last year to promote better collaboration among the many non-profit organizations around the world committed to conquering Duchenne and improving the lives of those living with this progressive and debilitating muscle wasting condition.  “The primary goal of the Alliance is to quickly identify, understand, fund, and implement the most promising research,” said Steve Dreher of the Duchenne non-profit Hope for Gus.  “The fastest way to success is shared knowledge and collaborative funding,” she said.

About the Duchenne Alliance:  We are an alliance of independent Duchenne organizations dedicated to advancing our missions to improve quality of life, care, and treatment of those affected by Duchenne. Our goals will be achieved by building trust, sharing knowledge, leveraging resources, and streamlining business practices. Each organization will be held to achieve their own mission as we collectively serve the entire Duchenne community.   Please visitwww.duchennealliance.org.

About OpenOnward: We employ open science solutions that empower individuals, groups and societies. Our core products were developed to expedite the entire scientific process by facilitating deeper, more meaningful connections between scientists and society.   Our team consists of leaders in biomedical research and open science.  We are dedicated to the greater good. Find us on the web at www.openonward.org.

Gus Turns Six – and the Balancing Act

It was a mere 5 months ago that I promised to write again soon – seems like only yesterday. But, Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy is a balancing act, and we ended up on one side of the see-saw. We spent the last few months taking care of Gus – we bought a new house – one that’s better for him (not perfect, but better). There are far fewer stairs and a flat lot. While it seems like yesterday when I promised to write, the actual yesterday was Gus’ birthday. He turned 6 and I had to write in honor of that.

It was a great birthday! Gus came down at 5:40 and crawled in. At about 6:20, I slipped out and we gave Gus breakfast in bed. When I came home from work, Tonya left to pick up Abe and Isabel, and I asked Gus what he wanted to do. He said he’d like to, “Ride the tractor down to the pond…” (Disclaimer #1: We don’t actually have a tractor, we have a small riding mower. Disclaimer #2: We don’t have a pond, we have a vernal pool…it will be gone by June.)

ANYWAY, the moment was sweet, even if it was fleeting. We climbed onto the ‘tractor’ and drove down to the ‘pond.’ Then we mowed for a bit and Gus steered – making S-curves all over the lawn. When Gus got tired of that, he said he wanted to read a story – we went inside and snuggled under a blanket on the couch.

Tonya got home with the other two kids, and we made Gus’ chosen dinner. We moved to the ice-cream cake, Gus opened presents and loved every minute of it. It was perfect, a day full of moments that will become precious memories to be tucked away and treasured forever.

Gus turned 6 yesterday and his disease reminded me that each of those memorable moments are rare and shimmering and beautiful. At the same time, it wouldn’t let me forget that they are also far too fleeting.

That’s the balancing act. This disease, Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy DEMANDS that you be aware of EVERY moment because those moments won’t last. At the same time, it has you forever vigilant about what’s next. It won’t allow you to be satisfied unless you are doing something to change the impending future.

I wrote and recorded a song that ended up dealing with this balancing act- I started it when Tonya was being treated for breast cancer and finished it after Gus was diagnosed. Gus’ verse goes like this:

“At night I lay down next to you sometimes I can’t believe that someday all of this may change – your eyes, your smile, your innocence, the way you laugh the way you dance, I want to hold back time just to keep you safe.

I had another verse that didn’t fit into the song…“They tell me all I have is now which always makes me wonder how I’m supposed love this moment then just let it go…”

And that summarizes it. How do we love this moment fully and then just let it go? How do we give our boys with DMD a life’s worth of love in every moment? How do we somehow use that love and devotion to make us stronger when we know that it makes us more vulnerable? How do we live full lives with our boys and, at the same time, be full-time advocates for them?

In the end, I think, we shelter their dreams. We deeply believe that those dreams are far more precious than memories but we live our lives honoring both.

Enjoy the song – and finally Disclaimer #3 – WordPress won’t let me upload just an mp3 – so I made this into a video with pics of Gus and the family – I hope you enjoy the song, and I hope you find the pics of the family an appropriate backdrop…

A Letter of Thanks

Following is a letter I wrote to thank the Souhegan High School Football team and the communities of Amherst and Mont Vernon for a successful fundraiser:

I am writing in response to the Souhegan Saber football team’s game on October 7th that served as a fund-raiser for the Hope for Gus Foundation. It’s nearly impossible to express the feelings I have for my son Gus, who was diagnosed with Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy (DMD), two years ago.  DMD is currently considered a terminal illness – it is the worst form of muscular dystrophy.  The diagnosis means that Gus will be confined to a wheelchair before his adolescence, and eventually lose his ability to breathe on his own. Boys with DMD typically die of heart failure in their mid-twenties.  It is hard to resolve that reality when spending time with six year old Gus today.  He is vibrant and alive, full of the sort energy and love of life that only young children can have.

How does a father understand and accept such a diagnosis?  The only wisdom I have gained in the two years since Gus’ was diagnosed is that I cannot do it alone – and yet, as a teacher, I have tried to keep it separate from my students. Somehow admitting that level of vulnerability seemed too much.  Yet I have learned that when your child has a terminal illness, that vulnerability is there for all to see.


Last spring Mike Beliveau, Souhegan’s football coach approached me and asked me if his team could sponsor a fundraising event for our foundation, Hope for Gus.   I agreed, knowing it would require my public acknowledgement of this diagnosis and that I would have to expose Gus’ and my vulnerability. This fall, Mike and I spoke with students in each grade level during an Advisory period about DMD and the fundraiser. Students were quiet and respectful – some were visibly moved by Gus’ story. Peter Warburton, our school’s Superintendent attended one of the presentations. Students embraced the fundraising opportunity.  One student, expressing what I have come to think of as ‘the spirit of Souhegan,’ said, “We have to help Gus – he’s part of our family.”

The Spirit of Souhegan –  rooted in the communities of Amherst and Mont Vernon –  was on full display in the week leading up to the fundraiser. Students approached me in the hall to say that they were happy to have something really good to work for. Through advisory, they gathered pledges for each touchdown our Saber’s would score against Pembroke Academy’s Spartans. They bought tee-shirts and contributed spare change. They attended the game in record numbers.

I have so many impressions from the evening of the game. In the locker room before the game, Coach Beliveau handed me a check from the Pembroke team for $175.00, underscoring the spirit of sportsmanship. He told his players that by raising awareness and money, the team had already ‘won.’  The team presented Gus with a ball signed by all its members and a t-shirt that said “Heart of a Champion.”  Students lined the path applauding wildly as team captain Chris Chinnis carried Gus with the team out to the field.  As the starters were being announced, someone asked Gus if he wanted to be carried or if he wanted to run with them onto the field.  He said, “I want to walk.”  Without pause, the young men shouted, “We’re walking tonight – walking with Gus!”  Gus went out with the captains for the coin toss, called it and won! During half-time, the team stood with Gus as the Harte family generously presented Gus with a football signed by Patriot’s quarterback Tom Brady.

The pledges are still being counted, but as of this writing, the Sabers’ seven touchdowns have raised close to $8000.00 for the Hope for Gus Foundation. As a fundraiser, I am grateful for money that will have an important, immediate, and direct application in exciting research.  As I told my students, researchers are close to figuring this disease out – the money that we raised really matters.  As a dad, I am proud of my son for inspiring our students.  But I am writing this letter as a member of the Souhegan community and a teacher of students in Amherst and Mont Vernon. I am writing to share with the general public the knowledge that this community is filled with a sense of wanting to participate in the greater good. This community of students, staff, administrators, and parents truly want to change the future. This school community is caring and compassionate. Through the leadership of the Souhegan Saber football team, we all participated in paying it forward and providing hope. My family and I are deeply touched by your generosity of spirit.