Family, friends to host benefit for Fergus woman battling disorder

Family members and friends have planned a Family Fun Day benefit for Fergus resident Ashleigh Rawn on Feb. 5 at the community centre here.

Rawn, who also has family and friends in the Palmerston and Listowel areas, among other places, has been diagnosed with neuromyelitis optica (NMO), also known as Devic’s disease, a disorder that causes one’s immune system to attack the optic nerves and spinal cord.

There is no cure for NMO, which is similar to multiple sclerosis in some ways, and Rawn has been hospitalized in Hamilton and Toronto since the summer, when she became paralyzed from the chest down.

She has progressed since that time with the help of various treatments, although pregnancy and the eventual birth of her second daughter, Grace, in late October complicated matters.

Grace spent weeks in hospital for observation but returned home healthy on Nov. 7, with dad Ryan taking time off of work to take care of their daughter full time.

Around the same time Rawn, who also lost the vision in one of her eyes for a couple of weeks in April, was released from McMaster Hospital and transferred to Kitchener Freeport for rehabilitation.

Rawn had a neurological evaluation in December and hopes she will regain full use of her legs over time. She is now able to get around in a wheelchair and she comes home on weekends to be with her family.

She may be able to come home permanently by Feb. 1, although she will have to continue with out-patient rehabilitation.

The Rawns have had to  substantially modify their home to improve accessibility and they will have to hire someone to help care for the children and Rawn once she returns home.

The family says there is really no financial assistance to help them with the added and ongoing expenses.

So those close to her have organized the Family Fun Day benefit at the Palmerston community centre on Feb. 5 from 11am to 4pm.

The fundraiser will include ticket sales for skating from 12 to 1pm as well as food, a bake table, games, raffles and draws. Admission is by donation and donations will also be accepted at Stilleto Salon or Fettes Travel in Listowel, and Deb’s Hair Design or Teenie Tiny Tots in Palmerston.