Community rallies around Frenship mom with ALS

Former softball players and their parents are working together to organize a fundraiser for a Frenship mother who was diagnosed with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, or Lou Gehrig’s Disease.

Caitlynn Carman said her mother, Jennifer Carman, worked her last day of work exactly two months ago Monday. Now the 47-year-old mother of three cannot speak, uses her right hand to communicate with her family on a white board, and uses a walker to get around.

What: Jennifer Carman Softball Fundraiser
When: Saturday, Aug. 17, 2013 at 8 a.m.
Where: Frenship High School

Caitlynn Carman graduated from Frenship High School in 2011. She played softball for a year at Lubbock Christian University, but is now focusing solely on her studies.

Caitlynn began playing softball when she was 4 or 5 years old, she said, and it became a big part of the family.

“It means a lot to my mom. That’s how I grew up, playing softball,” Caitlynn said, noting that her youngest brother, Jack, 13, was raised near the softball fields. “Softball has been such a big part of our lives.”

Her mother has been more involved in Frenship football and ag boosters since Caitlynn’s younger brother, Ryan, 16, started high school.

It means a lot to her mother that people are holding a fundraiser for the Carman family, Caitlynn Carman said.

“She thinks it’s a great deal. She thinks it’s amazing that so many people will come together for her, for her family, to take care of us,” Caitlynn said. Her mother has always been the one taking care of other people, she said.

“It means a whole lot to my family that the community can come together like that and support us. It’s a huge support system,” she said.

Caitlynn said the speed at which the disease has progressed is devastating.

“It’s in the later stages, and it’s attacking her vital organs,” Caitlynn said.

She said her mother is fully aware of what is happening around her.

“Other people out there are being described as living in a dead body,” she said. “She’s trapped in her own body. There’s no fighting it. There is no backtracking.”

Caitlynn said one of the most frustrating parts of ALS is that people continue to ask her if her mother is getting better.

“I’ve had people asking me, ‘Hey, is your mom better?’ And I just want to scream, ‘No,’ ” she said.

Jennifer Carman will have good days and bad days. But with ALS, it won’t get better, Caitlynn Carman said.

“It’s a terrible disease,” Caitlynn said.

She said her family doesn’t want anyone’s pity, but would like people to understand what is happening.

“I kind of just want to get the word out, how it affects people and families,” Caitlynn said. “We just assumed Mom had a backache. And it turned from a backache to ALS overnight.

“Sometimes it feels like a bad dream.”

It’s Caitlynn’s former teammates and parents of her teammates who are helping to organize a benefit tournament to help out the Carman family. Randy Carman, her dad, was the coach of the Diamondettes softball team, which was ranked nationally at one time.

“He prepared us for greatness,” Shelbi Sanders, a member of the Diamondettes, said. She is helping to organize the tournament.

Sanders said she can’t imagine the stress and the amount of money spent on entry fees to tournaments and travel. But she and other players are determined to pay it back to the Carman family.

“We’re going to make this happen for this family,” Sanders said. “I want everyone to know that this family needs us.”

Softball has been a love and passion of the Carman family for years, Sanders said.

“I wanted to bring that love and passion back to them,” she said.

More than 20 teams have already registered for the co-ed tournament, to be held at Frenship High School’s softball fields. But Robby Velardez, who helps run the Frenship summer softball camps, said there are more fields at Lubbock Christian University and Lubbock Christian High School that are available if more teams sign up.

The games will begin at 8 a.m. on Saturday, Aug. 17. The teams must consist of at least five males and five females per team, Velardez said. There are age groups for elementary school kids all the way up to senior citizens, he said.

There will not be a team entry fee, but a fee of $20 per player, with up to 12 players on a team.

“Just make sure it’s co-ed,” Sanders said.

Games will last 55 minutes, Velardez said.

Several area businesses have donated food and drinks to be sold at the tournament, and Texas Tech football coach Kliff Kingsbury has donated a signed football to be auctioned off during a silent auction during the tournament. Gift cards will also be auctioned off.

In addition to raising money for the Carman family, Velardez said the organizers hope to just have a day of fun in honor of the family.

“That’s why we’re opening up the tournament to every age group,” Velardez said. “We want everyone to come out and support the Carman family.”

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