The Jamestown community has come together to support native Matthew Mecusker while he battles cancer and Lou Gehrig's disease.
Members of the community, including Val Hagglund and Sebastian DiNapoli, are planning a benefit for Mecusker on Saturday from 4 to 8 p.m. at the ILS Veteran's Club at 364 Fluvanna Ave. in Jamestown. The benefit will feature a spaghetti dinner, Chinese and silent auctions, giveaways and more.
Mecusker, a husband and a father of three with one more on the way, has fought and won his battle with cancer three times. However, he was recently diagnosed with Lou Gehrig disease, or amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, by the Dent Clinic in Buffalo. According to the ALS Association, ALS is a progressive neurodegenerative disease that affects nerve cells in the brain and the spinal cord. The progressive degeneration of motor neurons eventually leads to death.
Pictured is the Mecusker family. A benefit will be held Saturday for Matthew Mecusker who is battling with Lou Gehrig’s disease, or amyotrophic lateral sclerosis.
Although there is currently no cure for the disease, Mecusker has been chosen out of a select few to participate in a clinical study in Georgia with the Emory University Hospital. The trial is working with adult stem cells, and so far only 18 people have been admitted to it. While the treatments are free, Mecusker has no means to pay for transportation between Jamestown and Georgia. So, the benefit will be held to raise funds to pay for transportation.
Hagglund, who attends New Hope Community Church with Mecusker, said that she decided to get involved because he's already been through so much.
"He got better, then it came back, and it just went round and round," said Hagglund. "He assumed the symptom of lack of feeling in his legs was due to the chemo. But once the treatment stopped, and sensation didn't return, he was diagnosed with Lou Gehrig's disease. So, I felt that I had to do something to help them."
Mecusker is currently in a wheelchair, but that doesn't stop him from singing with the New Hope Community Church praise team.
"There he is up there singing and facing all of this," said Hagglund. "It's such a neat testimony to his faith."
Hagglund has received numerous donations from businesses, organizations and individuals to help put together the benefit. Wing City Grille in Lakewood donated four $25 gift cards, Hagglund's hairstylist put together a basket with a value of over $175, Pepsi donated drinks, the spaghetti and sauce were donated, McDonald's, Sam's Club, several local gas stations and garages also made donations.
"I started this to be a help to him, but it's been quite a blessing to me to see how helpful everyone has been," said Hagglund. "For example, I needed help baking 600 rolls and I had it in a day. I really feel like everybody is one board with this. That's the neat part about this, is that I don't feel like I'm doing it all on my own."
There will be several prizes and auction items available at the benefit that were donated as well. Some of those include a locally hand-carved wooden salad bowl set and more than 50 gift baskets . The $5 ticket includes dinner and a chance to win a 32-inch flat-screen television. Those who can't make it to the benefit can still purchase a ticket for a chance to win the television.
"Matt is one of those guys that would do anything for a friend," said DiNapoli. "He also would reach out a hand to help a complete stranger too. That is why I am hoping that people in our community would do the same. He has been through so much already but still maintains an upbeat attitude, and remains the head of a lovely family when it would be so easy to quit."
"He has a strong faith and great family values," DiNapoli continued. "I met him four years ago when he became the bus driver for the Jamestown Chiefs semi-pro football team in our first season. The team bought an old school bus and Matt was in charge of fixing it up and getting it painted in our orange and blue team colors. Unfortunately after the first season the bus became too costly to operate, but Matt remains a part of the Jamestown Chiefs family. Our players have made donations of items to raffle off and we will be taking care of the cleanup for the benefit."
There is a benefit fund, "Matt Mecusker Benefit Fund," set up at Southern Chautauqua Federal Credit Union, 168 E. Fairmount Ave., in Lakewood for those who would like to make a contribution.
For more information call Hagglund at 483-2259.