Wright fights ALS with the heart of a warrior

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Michelle Wright’s favourite player is a Warrior.

So is she.

The lifelong basketball fan is battling amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease.

The 59-year-old from Chatham doesn’t know how much time she has left, but she does know this: “I want to spend it in a gym with my family.”

That’s where she and her husband, Doug, were for the first Ballin’ for Michelle Wright 3-on-3 basketball tournament Friday at Chatham-Kent Secondary School.

Twenty teams of 10- to 18-year-olds hit the hardwood to raise $3,200 for Wright and her family.

Her hair was streaked with Warriors Blue for Stephen Curry – the favourite player she shares with grandson C.J. Roberts – and Lakers Purple for LeBron James, grandson Caleb Roberts’s favourite.

“I played basketball while in public school and in high school (at McGregor) and then fell in love with my husband, who also played basketball (at Lambton-Kent),” she said. “We just have been lifers.


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“Solid Detroit Pistons fans, back when there was Bad Boys, and just continued being a basketball family and have been blessed with children who have been gifted with the sports and now grandchildren.”

The Bad Boys won NBA titles in 1989 and ’90. They never backed down, and neither does Wright.

“I’m a fighter,” she said.

Wright wasn’t diagnosed with ALS until June 2018, but she first noticed the symptoms in 2015. She now uses a wheelchair.

The disease eventually robs people of their ability to move their muscles.

“I’m doing well,” Wright said. “I have good days and bad days. The bad days are rough, but I have a lot of determination. I have a husband that supports me. We just get through.”

The ALS Society of Windsor-Essex County has been a huge help, she said.

“I just have a good network of family and friends,” she said. “I have a best friend and she’s there for me. To be quite honest, Chatham-Kent has really good supports. I was in the health field for 40 years, so I took care of people with disabilities. I know the system well and Chatham-Kent really has a very good system for people that need support.”

The Wrights have put $73,000 into her medical costs and upgrading their home. Most was spent in the past 1½ years. It was their retirement money.

“It’s allowed for me to stay in the home,” she said. “At this point of the disease, they told me I would be in a nursing home by now, but my husband said that he would take care of me. Forty-one years of marriage and he said sickness and health, and that’s what it’s been.”


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A GoFundMe campaign has raised almost $11,500 and helped to pay for a wheelchair-accessible van.

“ALS is a disease for the poor or for the rich, not for the middle class,” Doug said. “It’ll take everything you’ve got.”

But, Michelle said, “the one thing it can’t take away from you is your relationships with your family and with Jesus Christ.”

First Regular Baptist Church, Little Caesars, Phair Concrete and All Kindz of Kopies made donations to Friday’s tournament.

The Chatham-Kent Wildcats were sponsors. The Paul Dudley Memorial 3 on 3 Basketball Tournament paid the gym fee.

“A lot of people banded together to help us out today,” said Michelle and Doug’s son, Kyle Wright.

Kyle and his sister, Amber Roberts, want to make the tournament an annual event.

“It’s a terminal disease, so my mom won’t always be here to benefit from it,” Kyle said. “We’d like to continue the tradition. If we’re not raising money for her, we’d like to raise it for ALS or someone in the community.”

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