CULLOWHEE – When the Pride of the Mountains Marching Band takes the field at E.J. Whitmire Stadium on Saturday, Nov. 19, for the last game of the season, it will be to raise awareness of a disease that hits home at Western Carolina University.
The WCU Pride of the Mountains Marching Band will dedicate its last halftime show of the 2011 season to raise money for the ALS Association. Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, also known as ALS or Lou Gehrig’s disease, affects more than 30,000 Americans. The disease causes the progressive degeneration of motor neurons, causing a loss of control to the muscles throughout the body. A representative of the North Carolina chapter of the national ALS Association presented the idea of “Marching for ALS” to the WCU band, said Matt Henley, assistant band director, and the band quickly agreed.
The idea especially resonated for one band member. “When I first heard the idea, I was immediately excited,” said Daryll Victorio, the electronics coordinator for the Pride of the Mountains and a WCU graduate student studying music education. Victorio’s mother, Sonia Victorio, was diagnosed with ALS in 2004 and passed away in 2008. During his mother’s battle, the ALS Association gave the family immense support, Victorio said. When the opportunity to fundraise came around, Victorio set out on a blitzkrieg-style social networking campaign that raised more than $1,000 within a week.
“Marching for ALS” actually has meaning for every band member. The stadium field is named for Bob Waters, former WCU football coach and athletics director who suffered from ALS. Waters coached from 1969 through 1988 and was the university’s most successful football coach. He retired when the effects of ALS would not allow him to continue. Waters passed away in 1989. “We are so privileged to be able to march on Bob Waters Field every week, and this is a great way to use our art for a great cause,” Henley said.
Another member of the WCU athletics community, Keith LeClair, also was diagnosed with the deadly disease. LeClair was a player and a coach for the WCU baseball team. He passed away in 2006, at the age of 40.
The Pride of the Mountains Marching band has set a goal of raising $10,000 for “Marching for ALS.” Band members are asking for donations from individuals and have already raised close to $4,000. During the band’s Nov. 19 performance, band members will be accepting donations in the stadium.
The ALS Association is the only national nonprofit health organization dedicated solely to fighting amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. The ALSA conducts research globally, provides assistance for people with ALS through a nationwide network of chapters, coordinates multidisciplinary care through certified clinical care centers and fosters government partnerships.
To donate, visit the Pride of the Mountains Marching Band website at www.prideofthemountains.com and click on the “ALS Fundraiser” link. For more information about the band, contact Henley at email@example.com or the band office at 828-227-2259.