RIDGEWOOD, N.J. — Ridgewood is pushing this month to help Lesley Linker, a single mom with multiple sclerosis (MS), keep her modest house and around-the-clock aides.
The goal for the effort, dubbed LesleyPalooza , is $150,000.
So far, $24,000 has been raised.
“The people in this town are unbelievable,” Linker said. “I could cry because everyone is so sweet.”
The community has been rallying around Linker, a 47-year-old former speech teacher, and her two children since 2015.
That’s when things really got bad, according to a GoFundMe page started by a core group of five residents — Anne Burton Walsh, Paul Aronsohn, Lynn Benson, Nicole Hough and Bridey Bradford.
In 2015, Linker’s husband moved out of the home, the page says.
Linker told Daily Voice that also was the year she started living in a wheelchair.
And her speech became impaired.
“That summer, when it appeared imminent that Lesley would have to leave her home,” Walsh said, “several Somerville Elementary School mothers worked nearly full time for a month.”
They canvassed 37 local realtors to find a wheelchair-accessible, affordable three-bedroom home in Ridgewood or a surrounding town.
A year-and-a-half later, the search ended in defeat.
“It was a heartbreaking and futile process,” Walsh said.
At that point, Linker’s handicapped-accessible van had started giving out.
So the community started a grassroots fundraiser that quickly raised $108,000 to pay for another vehicle.
Some of the money also helped cover the $6,000- to $7,000-per-month expense of Linker’s 24/7 home health aides.
Now, though, Linker again finds herself straining under the financial pressure of the cost of aides and her mortgage.
Linker’s MS, which appeared out of the blue when she was 33, is particularly aggressive.
At this point her eyesight has deteriorated.
“I miss turning pages to read books,” Linker said.
She also has no use of her left arm or leg.
Twice a week, she said, she does physical therapy to help keep her right side as strong as possible.
“No meds worked for me,” she said.
Her doctor, Saud Sadiq of the Tisch MS Research Center of New York, got her into an FDA-approved stem cell trial.
That didn’t work, either.
Linker tries to stay focused on the positives in her life: Dr. Sadiq; her children; her parents, Marsha and Marty Ellis of Monroe, New York, both retired educators.
Then, of course, there are her friends in Ridgewood who run errands, give her kids rides, bring dinner.
The experience has left Linker grateful for everything.
She also doesn't take anything for granted.
“People don’t realize how lucky they are,” she said. “They can walk to the bathroom whenever they want.”
To contribute to LesleyPalooza, CLICK HERE .
Park West Loft is throwing a thank you party for supporters, past and present, 1-5 p.m. April 2.
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