There are numerous prestigious titles that one could use to identify Justin Upton.
First Virginian drafted No. 1 overall in the MLB Draft. Three-time Silver Slugger winner. Angels left fielder. The better Upton Brother.
All of those titles are worthy, but according to Upton, being a full-time Dad trumps everything. Performing on a baseball field is something Upton does for a few months out of each year. Fatherhood, however, is a 24-7, 365 days a year position. It’s the title he’s most proud of.
He and his wife Ashley welcomed their first-born daughter, Sydnee, in 2016. In May of 2019.
Upton and his wife welcomed their second daughter, Evyn.
On the field, 2019 had been a challenging year for Upton. He suffered a turf-toe injury during a Spring Training game against the Los Angeles Dodgers. The injury caused him to miss the Angels’ first 71 games of the season. Later on that year, an MRI revealed that Upton needed a platelet-rich plasma injection. He’d be out for the rest of the season.
From the outside looking in, 2019 was difficult for Upton the baseball player. But what many people didn’t know was that it was an even more challenging year for Upton the full-time dad.
Two weeks after his daughter Evyn’s birth, a doctor noticed that the youngest Upton had some medical concerns. From that point on, the Upton family spent the following months seeing different doctors and specialists.
Medical experts diagnosed Evyn with a list of health problems, which pushed the Uptons to visit more and more hospitals in hopes of getting answers.
Finally, in January 2020, a geneticist broke the news to the family. Evyn Upton had been diagnosed with Emanuel Syndrome.
For many people, the words “Emanuel Syndrome” don’t ring a bell. The Uptons were no exception. Neither Justin nor Ashley had heard of the disease, and to their dismay, the doctors didn’t know much about it either.
In simple terms, Emanuel Syndrome, or ES, is a disorder that starts in the chromosomes. Those who suffer from the disease are likely to never walk or talk. Infants with the disease have weakened muscles and delayed weight gain.
Many also suffer from other physical abnormalities due to slow or improper developments of other parts of the body.
After becoming aware of the health struggles that come with an ES diagnosis, the Uptons had quickly become familiar with another major aspect of dealing with Emanuel Syndrome: finances. Between countless therapies and doctor visits, families dealing with ES have a large financial burden, and the Uptons wanted to help. However, with the COVID pandemic looming, their options were limited. Their solution?
Upton and his wife took to social media to spread the word. They would hold a virtual 5K through the month of November to raise funds and awareness, all to help families in need. Their decision was strategic.
They chose November because Nov. 11 is Emanuel Syndrome Awareness Day.
The couple each posted links on their social media pages where people could sign up for the virtual 5K. They asked all participants to wear purple or blue, which are the official colors for ES.
They also asked that all participants share a picture while completing their 5K with the hashtags #EmanuelSyndrome, #EmanuelSyndromeAwareness and #EmanuelSyndromeAwarenessDay.
— Mark Teahen (@MarkTeahen) November 22, 2020
While those who follow the Uptons on social media can see a small glimpse into the challenges that Emanuel Syndrome can bring, there is one thing on social media that the Upton family makes very clear: they consider Evyn to be their warrior.
Between the loving posts of his family and the ES resources linked to his social media profiles, Justin Upton has proudly and publicly taken his stance in the fight against Emanuel Syndrome.