11-Year-Old Made It His Mission to Make Strangers Laugh During the Pandemic

Ethan LyBrand would normally be traveling around the country to raise awareness for muscular dystrophy. But during the pandemic, he connected with people by sharing one joke a day on social media.

ethan lybrand in wheelchair with sister
Ethan poses for a photo with his sister, Chloe, in Decatur, Alabama. Photo: Courtesy of LyBrand Family/Muscular Dystrophy Association

Mustering a smile when life gets hard can be a tall order. Unless you're lucky enough to be in the vicinity of apple-cheeked cutup Ethan LyBrand, that is. During the height of the pandemic, LyBrand made it his singular mission to spread happiness to those who needed it (which was, let's face it, all of us) by posting one goofy joke per day on social media. Here's a classic example: "What do you call a fake noodle? An impasta!"

LyBrand, diagnosed with Duchenne muscular dystrophy at 2 years old, is now the Muscular Dystrophy Association's (MDA) National Ambassador and takes his role as a representative for the thousands of people living with the disease seriously. But not too seriously.

"Laughing has always helped me," he says. "I use jokes to reach people, especially in tough times like these." Normally, the MDA National Ambassador would travel around the country to meet people and raise awareness, but in compliance with social distancing, particularly important for people with underlying health conditions, LyBrand had to find another way of connecting—which is what led to his 42-day streak of social-media funnies.

Since then, he has brought back his joke series for other occasions such as April Fool's Day in 2021 and 2022. As he explains, "I've always had a knack for making people laugh. And I figured the world really needed a reason to smile, so a joke series just made sense."

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