Locals get soaked to raise money for research

PARKERSBURG – In recent weeks, the Ice Bucket Challenge to raise awareness of ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis) has been sweeping the country as celebrities, business leaders and many others of all ages and walks of life pour – or have poured – ice-cold water over their heads.

The goal is to raise money and awareness of ALS, more commonly known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, by being dunked with ice water and then challenging others to do the same or donate $100 for ALS – or both. National numbers have reported reached into the millions in terms of the amount of money raised for the ALS Association.

The challenge has also reached the Mid-Ohio Valley as many Facebook members have seen friends and others they know posting their own videos and challenging people they know to do the same, as well as on Youtube.

Locally, the phenomenon has also acquired another flavor through the efforts of friends and family involved with raise awareness of Friedreich’s Ataxia.

For the past two years, family and friends of Parkersburg South High School student Anna Gordon have been holding fundraisers, selling T-shirts and doing other activities to raise money and awareness to “Attack Ataxia” as part of “Anna’s Army.” Anna Gordon began her senior year this week at PSHS.

Friedreich’s Ataxia, also referred to as FA, causes loss of coordination, muscle loss, visual impairment, slurred speech, aggressive scoliosis and more, including cardiomyopathy, an enlargement of the heart that can eventually prove fatal. There is no treatment or cure, but in the two years since her diagnosis, Gordon and her family continue working to change that by raising money for the Friedreich’s Ataxia Research Alliance.

On Tuesday evening, the PSHS Band performed at Southwood Park as part of the summer music series Southwood Music in the Park. Following the concert, the band’s drum major Benjamin Wilson underwent the ice bucket challenge – after changing from his band uniform to an “Attacking Ataxia” shirt – to raise awareness of FA on Anna Gordon’s behalf.

Wilson said he learned about the ALS challenge recently and he wanted to bring it to the South student body, which has been active and supportive of Anna Gordon for the past two years. Wilson said Anna Gordon has been a friend of his since childhood and was a member of the South Band prior to her diagnosis.

“I want to help her in her fight,” he said.

For his challenges, Wilson called on the football team captain at PSHS and the drum majors at Parkersburg High School and Williamstown High School to do the same for FA.

Wilson was joined in his challenge by Anna’s cousin, Devan Gordon, of Parkersburg. She has been a member for two years of the Hades Ladies roller derby team in Marietta and challenged all of her teammates and their children. She said the team has supported the fight against FA and also works to support the Humane Society of the Ohio Valley in Marietta.

Melissa Gordon, Anna’s mother, has been active in the efforts locally to raise awareness of FA and in support of her daughter and very pleased with Tuesday’s challenges and with the support their efforts have seen over the past two years.

“There’s no other community like this community for getting behind their children and supporting them,” Melissa Gordon said.

She is hoping the support and awareness being raised on behalf of ALS research will have a positive impact on the efforts to address Friedreich’s Ataxia.

“ALS and Friedreich’s Ataxia are very closely related,” Melissa Gordon said. “When they get a cure for ALS it will have a ripple effect on Friedreich’s Ataxia and vice versa, so we want to support ALS as much as we want to support FA,” she said.