Laura Somerville Woodall died in February after battling ALS for nine years, but had become the inspiration for a foundation that helps others fighting the disease.
Woodall, the 43-year-old wife of John Woodall and mother of Amelia and Abigail, all of Davidson, inspired the founding of A Giving Spirit Foundation in 2008.
Known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis) is a neurodegenerative disease that greatly inhibits a patient’s ability to communicate and move. It is incurable.
A disease like ALS can also hurt a family’s finances as they deal with the illness.
The formation of A Giving Spirit Foundation was the result of Laura Woodall’s insistence that the many offers of help to her be redirected to “mothers experiencing adversity in the face of an unforeseen health challenge, as well as to ALS research organizations.”
That became the mission statement of the foundation.
The foundation has been raising funds with help of local restaurants who designate a portion of a day’s proceeds to the charity, and through such events as the Jingle Jog, which took place in January. The foundation’s website and Facebook presence also help with fundraising, said David Stewart, the foundation’s board chairman and a principal with The Stewart Group real estate investments.
People with muscular dystrophy also benefited from Laura Woodall’s efforts.
According to her obituary, soon after her ALS diagnosis she rallied friends for a project that raised “over $100,000 for the Muscular Dystrophy Association’s Stride ‘n’ Ride.”
The Woodalls’ teen daughters have learned to become effective fundraisers, too. Through the foundation’s Teen Council, they helped raised $12,000 last summer at their first event.
Continuing to help people
Social workers at the Levine Cancer Center have been a major source for identifying potential recipients for grants from the foundation.
They give the foundation contact information of mothers undergoing treatments for cancer whose families are in danger of losing their home or cannot pay for groceries, said Stewart.
“We will pay one or two month’s rent to their landlord or grant other financial assistance,” he said.
“The average grant size (about $1,500) has stayed consistent over the years, but we’ve had much better awareness and fundraising recently and that has allowed us to help more families,” he said.
Last year, $30,000 was awarded in 19 grants, which was more than double the total awarded in each of the previous two years.
“Because AGSF was inspired by a mother, friend, advocate and ALS patient, we reserve a portion of our annual grant budget for ALS patients and to support ALS research,” Stewart said, adding that he has had three friends pass away from this disease and another one who has it now.
The foundation’s board is planning its next fundraising event for May 1; May is national ALS Awareness Month.
“Laura Woodall helped and will continue to help a lot of people,” he said.
Suzanne Fulton is a freelance writer. Have a story for her? Email SuzanneLakeNorman@gmail.com.
Want to help?
For information, email AGSF@agivingspirit.org or visit the foundation’s website, www.agivingspirit.blogspot.com/. Checks may be mailed to: A Giving Spirit Foundation, P.O. Box 815, Davidson, NC, 28036.