By Janice Llanes Fabry
MC and Paul McEvoy, founding board members of MAC Angels, will be honored at the nonprofit foundation’s annual gala November 4 at Wykagyl Country Club in New Rochelle. The MAC Angels Foundation supports families with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), an incurable motor neuron disease. Under Paul’s presidency, selfless volunteers continue to alleviate the emotional, physical, and financial challenges faced by patients and their families.
“It’s always nice to be acknowledged for the work that you do. At the same time, we’re humbled,” said Paul on behalf of the couple who have dedicated their lives to affecting positive change through service. “We’ll always continue our support for MAC Angels.”
The McEvoys only learned of ALS in 2001 when Paul’s mother, Beth McEvoy, was diagnosed at age 71. It took time to confirm the diagnoses because there is no blood test for ALS and it can mimic a number of several other neurological diseases. Initially, doctors suspected that she might be slurring her words as a result of possible anesthesia complications after rotator cuff surgery a year earlier. That turned out not to be the case.
“I didn’t know what ALS was all about. My mother had the bulbar form, which tends to affect speech and swallowing before moving on to the limbs,” said Paul upon making the initial discovery. “The fact that she could not communicate was so frustrating and difficult for her and for all of us.”
When MAC Angels’ former Executive Director Richard Mauch requested the McEvoys become involved in the inception of such a foundation, they didn’t hesitate for one moment.
“We could relate to ALS,” explained MC. “And it was important to us to offer our help in memory of Paul’s mother.”
Paul, who recognized a void, added, “My mother was a saintly woman and we were lucky to have my father, my siblings, and a support network that most people don’t have. It wasn’t a difficult extrapolation to learn these families need counseling, medical resources, financial help, and caretakers.”
In 2010, the Friends of Claire Foundation, named for Claire Gormley Collier for whom the McEvoys helped raise funds, and the Mary Ann Collier Foundation, named for Claire’s philanthropic mother-in-law, joined forces to become MAC Angels.
The McEvoys have been instrumental in defining the foundation’s mission. They’ve also been leading sponsors of all the fundraising that is critical to MAC Angels’ goal of enhancing the quality of life for patients, family members, and care givers impacted daily by ALS.
As MC remarked, “I feel good about being able to help families and about making their day to day lives a little easier, whether it’s having a ramp built for handicap access, providing a lift to a doctor’s appointment, supplying meals and palliative care, giving someone a TV for some entertainment, or gardening alongside a caretaker to give them a break.”
Indeed, it takes a village to begin to offer the resources and satisfy the needs, or what MAC Angels calls the “survivorship gap,” of ALS families. Chris Curtin, founder and MAC Angels’ first president whom Paul calls “Mother Theresa,” oversees all services. Program Director Ellen DiCicco has been raising awareness and assisting families directly by navigating available resources since the beginning. Social worker Carol Sommerville does all the intakes with new families and provides healthcare advocacy. Executive Director Kelly Corwen, in spite of not having a family connection, handles all the behind the scenes operations and is running this year’s gala with Nora Powell.
“In the ALS world, everyone is familiar with the Ice Bucket Challenge to find a cure, but unfortunately at the moment there’s little prospect,” lamented Paul. “The best thing the MAC Angels could do is ease the burden on the families, as well as the patients.”