Event on 'Make A Difference Day' to raise funds, support
By Meagan McGone
BREVARD - As a physical education teacher in Brevard, Jason Whitworth has dedicated many years of his life to ensuring children in the community remain healthy and active.
But in September 2011, the 41-year-old husband and father was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, also known as ALS or Lou Gehrig's disease, a disease that attacks nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord and progressively paralyzes the body.
"For Jason, this has been very difficult, as the progression has been quite rapid," said his wife, Gayle. "He has gone from being a very active person - teaching physical education, coaching, riding his motorcycle, fishing and enjoying many other outdoor activities - to not being able to move at all and requiring assistance for all activities. It is especially hard because in his mind, he can still do all these things, but his body won't respond."
To aid the Whitworth family and to raise awareness of ALS, St. Joseph Catholic School, West Shore Junior/Senior High School and Melbourne Central Catholic High School - all schools Mr. Whitworth has taught or coached at - as well as Lake Washington Fellowship, will host a 5K run/walk on Oct. 27 at Melbourne Central Catholic High School, 100 E. Florida Ave. in Melbourne.
The event will be held on "Make A Difference Day," an annual, nationwide day of community service.
The race will begin at 4:30 p.m. and dinner, provided by Carrabba's Italian Grill in Melbourne, will be served on the patio next to the Melbourne Central Catholic gymnasium, following the race. Fees for dinner range from $10 to $35 and can be found at www.jasonsrun5k.com.
Mrs. Whitworth said the community support has been overwhelming. When Mr. Whitworth was diagnosed, the West Shore Junior/Senior High School community hosted a fundraiser that allowed the family to go on a cruise, while Mr. Whitworth was still mobile.
"There is no way we could possibly thank everyone or show the community how much their actions, concerns and words mean, but it does mean so much to us," Mrs. Whitworth said. "I think one thing Jason would want to do is to encourage people to learn more about ALS. It is a rare disease in terms of numbers, but it affects many people here in our community. Every person with ALS has a different journey, which makes figuring out what causes it and finding a cure for it difficult."
For more information about the event or to support the Whitworth family, visit www.jasonsrun5k.com.