Dinner to raise funds for man with ALS

January 29, 2020 Cranberry Living

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A spaghetti dinner fundraiser will be held Feb. 8 to benefit the Ewonce family. John Ewonce, second from right, is undergoing expensive experimental treatment for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, also known as Lou Gehrig's disease. From left are his daughter Caitlin, wife Tara and son Ed. The two soccer teams at North Catholic High School are organizing the dinner. Ed Ewonce is a sophomore and soccer player for the school team.

CRANBERRY TWP — The students and parents in the North Catholic High School Boys Soccer Association are a family, and when one member recently found himself in a tight spot, the goal was to pitch in and help.

So when Ranae Daugherty, president of the school's soccer boosters, heard the father of sophomore player Ed Ewonce was paying thousands for experimental treatment for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, she kicked it in and planned a fundraiser.

A spaghetti dinner benefit for John Ewonce will be from 4 to 8 p.m. Feb. 8 at the St. Kilian Parish Center, 7076 Franklin Road, Cranberry Township.

Spaghetti and homemade meatballs, salad, bread and butter, a beverage and dessert will be included in the dinner, which will cost $10 per person for adults and $5 for children age 10 and younger.

A 50/50 raffle and several high-end raffle baskets also will be available at the dinner.

“We wanted to do our part and support a member of our soccer family,” Daugherty said. “John is going to have a lot of out-of-pocket expenses over the course of the next few years.”

She said players will be cleaning and setting tables, selling raffle tickets, fetching drinks, putting out desserts and providing any other help needed at the dinner.

“They will be involved the whole day,” Daugherty said.

Ewonce said he was diagnosed with ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig's disease, in October. The disease robs victims of the use of their muscles incrementally until the diaphragm stops working, which prevents the patient from breathing.

While Ewonce is taking a medication used in the field for 20 years, he also receives a monthly intravenous drug that has been available for 18 months.

That medication costs $5,000 after his health insurance has covered part of the bill.

In March, he will move to an oral medication in a clinical trial. He also has signed up for three new clinical trials to be held at Duke University in the next month or two.

“I'm willing to try anything,” Ewonce said matter-of-factly. “The only thing you don't have is time because this disease is relentless.”

He said doctors told him his symptoms will abate if the experimental drugs are working, but it is too soon to tell if that is the case.

The only time Ewonce, who is vice president of production and business development for a Pittsburgh medical device company, became emotional was when he was asked how he feels about the soccer boosters organizing the fundraising dinner.

“Ranae Daugherty has the biggest heart of any human being I know of,” he said. “(The dinner is) pretty awesome.”

The soccer boosters and Ewonce's co-workers have set up an online fundraiser for the Ewonces, who live in Mars.

Donations can be made by searching “John Ewonce Support Fund” at www.gofundme.com.

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Paula Grubbs

Paula Grubbs

Paula Grubbs is a Butler County native who has been with the Butler and Cranberry Eagle newspapers since June 2000. Grubbs has covered the Mars School District and Middlesex Township for over 20 years with the Eagle and her former employer, the Cranberry Journal. She also covers Adams Township, Evans City and Mars in addition to events and incidents throughout Southwestern Butler County as assigned. Grubbs has taken the lead at the Cranberry Eagle in reporting on shale gas development, which has been a hotly debated topic in the recent past, both locally and nationally. A 1979 graduate of Butler Senior High School and a 1994 graduate of Geneva College, Grubbs has won a Golden Quill and four Keystone state awards, plus an award from the Society of Professional Journalists. Grubbs enjoys following the Penguins, Pirates and Steelers, volunteers with the Connoquenessing Creek Cleanup each summer, and loves spending time outdoors and bird watching at her Penn Township home. Grubbs is the daughter of James R. Davis Sr., of Center Township, and the late Maxine Davis. She has two grown children, Jacqueline and Thomas.