Fifth-Grader Tells a Joke a Day to Keep Americans Laughing During Coronavirus Pandemic

Newsweek's "Heroes of the Pandemic" series features everyday heroes showing service, sacrifice or kindness in the time of COVID-19.

During a global pandemic, it's easy to lose your sense of humor. But 10-year-old Ethan LyBrand is determined not to let the coronavirus (COVID-19) get him down—and has been taking to social media to make others smile.

The youngster, who lives in Decatur, Alabama, has been delivering a virtual "Joke of the Day" every day to provide a dose of happiness for those who need it. Filmed by his parents, Josh and Jordan LyBrand, Ethan's jokes are shared through the Muscular Dystrophy Association's (MDA) social media channels.

"Since everyone was stuck at home, I wanted to make them laugh," the fifth-grader told Newsweek. According to his parents, Ethan is always telling jokes and making people laugh and as part of his national ambassador role, MDA selected him for the series.

"Ethan has a knack for making people smile and he knows we all could use one right about now.," a spokesperson for MDA told Newsweek. "Ethan's Joke a Day for MDA is his way of spreading virtual joy across our communities.

"In addition to bringing some needed the smiles, Ethan's Joke a Day aims to spread awareness for people with neuromuscular diseases at this pivotal time. The neuromuscular disease community—people with ALS, muscular dystrophy, Spinal muscular atrophy, Duchenne and related rare diseases—are among the highest risk populations for COVID-19. And they need our help and support more than ever."

Ethan LyBrand, a 10-year-old from Alabama, has been telling a joke a day to help put smiles on people's facing during the coronavirus pandemic. MDA

The 10-year-old himself is one of the vulnerable—in June 2011 he was diagnosed with Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy (DMD), two days before his second birthday. While very much the comedian, Ethan tires easily and periodically uses his power chair, which he has named "Bumblebee" after his favorite Transformers character.

DMD is a genetic disorder characterized by progressive muscle degeneration and weakness due to the alterations of a protein called dystrophin that helps keep muscle cells intact. It is one of four conditions known as dystrophinopathies. DMD symptom onset is in early childhood, usually between ages 2 and 3. The disease primarily affects boys, but in rare cases, it can affect girls. In Europe and North America, the prevalence of DMD is approximately 6 per 100,000 individuals.

Following his diagnosis, his parents connected with MDA, which provided Ethan and his family with a network of care. In turn, the LyBrand family has worked to create a movement advocating other families living with neuromuscular diseases. Recognizing his contributions, the organization named him its 2020-2021 MDA National Ambassador, where he represents the 250,000 people in the U.S. who are living with neuromuscular diseases.

Due to Ethan's vulnerability, the LyBrand family is in quarantine, but that hasn't stopped him living his best life. "I get to sleep in all the hours," he laughs. He also manages to get some fresh air by walking his basset hound.

Throughout the quarantine, Ethan's parents—who are both educators—have been teaching him and his younger sister from home, in addition to caring for him. Unfortunately, they have seen setbacks in terms of Ethan's treatments with specialists, as well as trials to help with his condition: "We could be waiting for another 6 to 12 months," his mother told Newsweek.

The MDA is providing an extra layer of support for families like Ethan's during the pandemic. It has created COVID-19 Resources on its website with guidelines for families living with neuromuscular disease. It also hosts weekly "MDA Let's Play" game nights to bring the community together.

And how long will Ethan be telling jokes? "As long as the quarantine lasts." He also told Newsweek his favorite joke: "Why are ghosts such bad liars?

"Because you can see right through them."

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