Floating for a Cure: Second Annual Red Nose River Float to raise additional funds for ALS research

Published: May. 23, 2023 at 5:55 PM EDT
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RONCEVERTE, W.Va. (WVVA) - On June 4, 2022, nearly 150 people floated six miles down the Greenbrier River from Caldwell to Roncevrte’s Island Park. The feat was all part of the first-ever Red Nose River Float, an event designed to raise money for ALS research.

And it did! The event more than doubled its original goal of $10,000.

This year, the event will be held in Ronceverte on Saturday, June 17, and co-organizers Dan Withrow and Deva Wagner tell WVVA that it will return bigger and better than ever.

“We truly expect probably double the number of participants and, hopefully, our goal is to raise more than $30,000 this year,” Withrow shared.

Withrow and Wagner both lost loved ones to ALS. The disease took Withrow’s good friend, Gary Arbaugh, and, in 2019, it did the same to Wagner’s father, Chally Erb. In the wake of their loss, the Red Nose River Float was born. It was even named after Erb, a former circus clown, who was known for donning a red nose.

While the event is tied to their experience with the disease, Withrow and Wagner want to recognize all who have been impacted.

“It’s touched so many people, and we want everybody to know this isn’t just about Chally or just about Gary,” Withrow explained. “This is about anybody and everybody that’s been touched by ALS.”

Also known as Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis or Lou Gehrig’s Disease, ALS is a terminal disease that attacks the nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord, leaving a person unable to walk, talk, move or even breathe. According to the West Virginia ALS Association, every 90 minutes someone in the United States receives a diagnosis for the disease.

Events like the Red Nose River Float send funds directly to the state’s ALS chapter in the hope of finding a cure and diminishing the disease’s reach.

“The only way we can do that is by raising money so we can find something to make this a livable disease by the year 2030...” Wagner said.

According to Wagner, finding a cure for the disease is her and Withrow’s goal, and, this year, the West Virginia ALS Association is working right beside them to help make that dream a reality.

“Events such as this are making a real and tangible impact in the fight against ALS,” said Anthony Woodyard, the Community Engagement and Development Manager for the West Virginia ALS Association. “We are making strides at a tremendous pace, and it’s because of events like this.”

In addition to his work with the West Virginia ALS Association, Woodyard is also assisting Withrow and Wagner with this year’s event. He says registration to take part in the leisurely Greenbrier River float is open, and opportunities to volunteer are still available.

This year, the event’s post-float activities will be held in the City of Ronceverte to coincide with the city’s second Food Truck Festival. The day’s entertainment and activities are still to be announced.

Click here to register, donate or learn more.

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