Louisiana Family Puts Their Own Spin on MDA Fundraising

George Wood is the official taste-tester for the annual MasterVac Industrial Services Jambalaya Benefit in Baton Rouge, La. He picks the best pot — one of many made up by his dad, Damon, MasterVac co-owner, and the business’ employees — each year.

The benefit is in honor of George, who lives with limb-girdle muscular dystrophy (LGMD), and other kids like him.

“We’ve been doing our benefit for 13 years now, and in our best year raised $15,000,” says Monika Wood, George’s mom. “We couldn’t help George, and felt helpless. There is no treatment or cure for limb-girdle muscular dystrophy. All we could do was try to raise money for MDA hoping one day for a treatment or cure for all children and adults affected by muscular dystrophy.”

George, 16 years old now, started physical therapy at 2 months old after presenting hypotonia, or low muscle tone. He didn’t begin walking until 12 days before his second birthday; a muscle biopsy led to a diagnosis of LGMD.

George’s doctor immediately put the Wood family in contact with their local MDA office. They became involved with MDA’s telethon, and they started their own benefit through Your Way for MDA.

“We never wanted another family to go through having to hear a doctor tell you that your child has MD and life is going to be very difficult for him,” Monika says.

The Woods make a lot of jambalaya. This year, they had 10 large pots of it, plus pots of white beans — even with an unexpected pot theft. Someone stole one of MasterVac’s custom jambalaya pots and burners a few weeks before the benefit this year, but thanks to local news coverage, the pot was located at a pawnshop and returned. A local hardware store donated a replacement pot, too.

Event chefs served up 2,000 plates of jambalaya, raising $13,000.

Monika’s advice to others thinking of starting their own MDA fundraisers?

“You can be creative,” she says. “Get your child involved. Of course, we have amazing volunteers. Every [MasterVac] employee helps out and they look forward to it every year. Helping a charity like MDA just makes people feel good.”

Join the Wood family in the quest to help kids and adults living with neuromuscular diseases live longer and grow stronger.