NOTE: Local writer Betsy Flagler provided this profile of Laura Woodall and “Laura’s League.” She also wrote about the topic in Sunday’s Charlotte Observer.
By BETSY FLAGLER
It’s the little things that are difficult: Braiding her daughter’s hair for ballet, cutting fruit, buttoning buttons, zipping zippers.
A year ago on Valentine’s Day, Laura Woodall of Davidson was diagnosed with a progressive motor neuron disease that falls under the realm of ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease.
“Fortunately for me, my condition is progressing slowly, allowing me to face new challenges, deal with them, and move on to the next challenge,” said Laura, who is 35.
With the help of her husband John and 24 friends — many from Davidson — Laura embraced a new challenge: to raise $25,000 for the Muscular Dystrophy Association. The fund-raising became “contagious,” as Laura said, and donations have passed $85,000.
Her team, named “Laura’s League,” will participate in an MDA walk Saturday morning, March 10, at Concord Mills Mall. The MDA is the top fund-raiser for research of motor neuron diseases, including ALS.
“I wanted to put a mom’s face on this to help others,” said Laura, whose two daughters, Abigail, nearly 6, and Amelia, nearly 8, attend Davidson Elementary School. “And I wanted a bunch of moms to walk with me.”
Using a personal touch with a letter from Laura, the team blasted way beyond the “Wow!” of success she was hoping for to help others with ALS.
Among the team members is Abigail’s K-1 teacher at Davidson Elementary, Teri Brooks. She also taught Abigail’s older sister Amelia, who is in the 2-3 class at the school. The tie that binds many of the women: They are the mothers of children Laura’s daughters have known since they were toddlers or preschoolers.
“We could not have done this anywhere else but in our close-knit community, or without the far-reaching support of our families and friends,” said John Woodall, a 1992 graduate of Davidson College. He is Chief Financial Officer at MetroTech Automotive in Charlotte.
Sarah Baldwin, Health Care Service Coordinator for the MDA in Charlotte, is coordinating the “Stride-’n-Ride” mall event for Saturday.
“We’ve had teams come together before to show support, but moms helping moms is a new approach,” Baldwin said. “The magnitude of what they’ve been able to accomplish is incredible.”
There’s no sense in taking a negative approach to living with a motor neuron disease, Baldwin said, and Woodall is taking many positive strides.
Her weeks are full being a mom: volunteering at Davidson Elementary, taking her daughters to horseback and ballet, doing laundry and keeping the house. Her weeks are also full being a proactive patient. She goes to a personal trainer twice a week to work on stability, muscle strengthening, and “anything to keep the good muscles good,” she said. She also goes to an acupuncturist and a chiropractor.
The $80,000-plus raised by Laura’s League for the MDA walk will be designated for ALS-related research for a cure; providing equipment such as wheelchairs and braces; and subsidizing clinic visits.
One of the mothers on the team is Annie Porges of Davidson, who helped the Woodalls kick the fund-raiser into high gear.
“From the start, Laura has wanted to turn a difficult situation into something good for others,” Annie said. “Through Laura’s spirit and her sparkle, through the way she reaches people, she will give more than she receives.”
To donate to Laura’s League, please send a check made payable to the MDA, to: Laura’s League P.O. Box 356 Davidson, NC 28036.
LAURA’S LEAGUE MEMBERS
Laura Woodall, John Woodall, Paula Ayscue, Karen Gibson, Annie Porges, Meredith Biehler, Joy Bryant, Summer Pharr, Katie Scruggs, Kiki Strodel, Mary Kim Folds, Pam Hansen, Terilynne Knox, Temple Day, Catherine Bragg, Alice Bragg, Leslie Bragg, Lisa Bynum, Lesley Swartz, Amanda Turano, Amy Klett, Betsy Norvell, Celia Felthaus, Teri Brooks, Suzanne Grzeszczak, Mary Peace McRae Summers
Betsy Flagler, who writes the syndicated column “Parent to Parent” for United Media, taught Amelia and Abigail in the 3-year-olds class at Davidson College Presbyterian Church pre-school.