Community comes out to support Air For Ash

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In a tremendous showing Friday evening, more than 400 people crammed into the banquet room at the Eagles to
support Ashleigh Merchant, a 17-year-old girl with cystic fibrosis.
The benefit, put on by her school, Mountain Valley High School, included a spaghetti supper, an auction and dancing. Many people wore purple as this was the start of Cystic Fribrosis Awareness Month.
It also included a second fundraiser, that being a weight challenge that started over Facebook with Roger White pledging $10 a pound for 30 days of weight loss by Tommy Tompkins, with the money going to Ashleigh as Boston Children’s Hospital has done the evaluation for transplant and has accepted her on a list for a double lung transplant.
That effort mushroomed to around $1,200 per pound. And when Tompkins weighed in, he had lost 31.5 pounds from his 370-pound frame.
MVHS Principal Matt Gilbert, acting as master of ceremonies, announced that Tompkins raised $34,410 in pound pledges, with another $6,430 in flat donations.
Tompkins said, “There’s a lot of people who want to keep this going, and the Oxford Hills Middle School is willing to donate towards Ash. If anyone wants to carry this on, we’re doing a second challenge on June 13. I’m going to keep losing weight for Ash. They talked me into doing a tough mudder challenge.”
Afterwards, Gilbert announced, “Tommy would like some spaghetti now!”
Tompkins then noted, “I haven’t eaten a thing in two days.”
Asked about her thoughts regarding the donations, Ashleigh, the daughter of Heather Violette-Merchant and Randy Merchant, said it means a lot, then tearfully noted, “I’ll be able to have my dad with me.”
When she’s Ashleigh is gone to the hospital for her treatment, which lasts 16 or 17 days, her mom always goes with her, while her father stays home with their other daughter, Kaysey.
Peggy LaPointe, a secretary at MVHS, said donations for Ashleigh can be made at MVHS and sent to MVHS, 799 Hancock St., Rumford 04276. Be sure to put the name “Ashleigh” in the comment portion of the check. She said a separate account has been made for her.
A GoFundMe account called Just Breathe was set up by Heather’s sister, Regina Violette-Roy, at https://www.gofundme.com/qrkh74. The $5,000 goal set for Ashleigh’s transplant fund was at $3,160, including an anonymous $500 donation.
bfarrin@sunmedia.net

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