By Kalea Hall
Christine Terlesky does not think she is an inspiration.
Instead, she thinks the community surrounding her and cheering her on is the inspiration.
Last Sunday, more than 6,000 people from throughout the Mahoning Valley came out for a spaghetti dinner to raise more than $100,000 for Terlesky and her battle against amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or Lou Gehrig’s disease.
“I really don’t think it is about me,” Terlesky said. “It is about the fighting spirit” of the Valley community.
The dinner was put on by the “Chip in for Chris” committee. Debbie Mook, a member who helped to plan the dinner, was not at all surprised by the large attendance.
“That family has been so active in the community for so many years, so we had a lot of people there that they have touched through their lives,” Mook said.
In addition to the money raised from the dinner, two auctions also brought in funds. Auction items included season tickets to the Cleveland Indians and Pittsburgh Pirates and a granite kitchen worth more than $4,000.
“People were coming from everywhere,” Mook said. “It wasn’t limited to just a small group.”
It was a festival for Terlesky, but more than that, it was a festival for the community.
Terlesky, 41, daughter of area basketball coach, Ron Moschella and mother of three, had to give up teaching in Boardman schools and coaching basketball at Boardman High School after she was diagnosed with ALS in fall 2013, yet she “gets” what Lou Gehrig meant when he told a crowd he considered himself the luckiest man alive.
That’s exactly what she wrote in a thank-you letter to the community. “I understand that I get to see the best in humanity. I understand that there is NOTHING more important than people and love,” she wrote.
Terlesky knew she couldn’t write out thousands of thank-you cards, but she also knew she wanted to do something in thanks for the support.
In that letter, Terlesky addresses the devastation she felt when she was diagnosed with ALS and how she her knew life would be changed forever — such as the times when she cannot fix her daughter’s hair, ride a bike or teach her sons how to shoot a basketball.
“Last summer I was working out five times a week,” Terlesky said. “Right now it is like a day to day thing.”
Yet instead of continuing to worry about what she is losing, she focuses on what she still has.
“An event like Sunday’s spaghetti dinner happens and it was an amazing humbling experience that gives me hope, that forces me to quit feeling sorry for myself and fight,” Terlesky wrote in her letter.
And fight she will, even if she has to go to a foreign country for stem-cell treatment. The money generated from the dinner will help her get there.
“That is one thing about the Youngstown area is we are fighters,” Terlesky said. “We are right here supporting each other.”
Terlesky will share her story of support from the community and her battle with ALS at ALS Advocacy Day in Washington, D.C., from May 7 to May 9.
“I figure I am going to speak for people who have ALS who can’t speak any more,” she said.
A golf outing for Terlesky will take place at Tippecanoe Country Club on July 28. Details are still being worked on for the event.