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July 11 Jambalaya/Pastalaya Dinner Will Raise Funds for Wheelchair Van

Emily Progin, PR and Communications Coordinator / 800.642.8399

Release: Immediate


Outpouring of Support for Special Ed. Teacher Fighting Ultrarare Disease

SPRINGFIELD, La.—On Saturday, July 11 from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., enjoy takeout pastalaya and jambalaya for a cause at Springfield High School Student Parking Lot (27322 LA-Hwy 42, next to the Town Hall/Police Station). Your dinner purchase will help Springfield born-and-raised special education teacher Ravien Richardson Parsons, who has been living with Stiff Person Syndrome since March, afford a wheelchair van so she can return to teaching this fall. Order here:

While she lives in Utah today, Ravien was born and raised in Springfield. She was a basketball player and homecoming queen of Springfield High School class of 2000. She married her high school sweetheart, Troy Parsons. Ravien graduated from Southeastern Louisiana University in 2010. After graduation, she worked for Livingston Parish Public Schools as a special education teacher. She is the proud wife of a Marine veteran and the devoted mother of two young boys. Though they currently live in Utah, Ravien and her family maintain strong family connections right in Springfield.

Earlier this year, Ravien was diagnosed with Stiff Person Syndrome, or SPS, an ultrarare autoimmune disease with an unknown cause.

Ravien has been experiencing debilitating stiffness and rigidity since December. By March, she was fully reliant on a power chair to remain mobile—but the devoted teacher refused to allow SPS and the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic to stop her. She engaged in phone calls and Zoom meetings with students, reading aloud to them virtually and delivering digital lessons to keep them engaged and ensure that they did not feel alone.

With the help of her family, Ravien has been able to work out many of the mobility challenges she is suddenly facing—but one massive issue remains. No standard vehicle can support her 422-pound power chair, leaving Ravien out of options for returning to teaching in August unless she can purchase a wheelchair accessible van. Insurance is refusing to assist with the cost of the van, which can top $30,000 out-of-pocket.

In May, Ravien turned to the national nonprofit Help Hope Live to start a verified and tax-deductible medical fundraising campaign to help with the cost of the van. Her Utah community responded with a moving outpouring of concern and support: her first two yard sale fundraisers raised over $6,000. Ravien says she “can’t wait to be back in Springfield” to be a part of this fundraiser, thank her community, and see her local family and friends: “I’m homesick!”

Pick up your jambalaya or pastalaya dinner between 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. this Saturday. Each dinner will come with the entrée, a side, bread, and dessert for a $10 donation. Pre-purchase your meal online at Select the number of dinners you want and pay with a debit or credit card or eCheck.

To promote COVID-19 safety and social distancing, meals will be delivered carside, and all servers will be using gloves and masks. Questions? Call or text the event organizer Josh Patterson at (985) 969-4452. You can reach Ravien at (985) 320-0313.

Can’t attend? Make a donation in honor of Ravien to help this devoted teacher reach her fundraising goal and return to teaching in August at Donations are tax deductible to the extent allowed by law, and all funds raised will be managed by the nonprofit to cover verified medical and related expenses via the Southwest Catastrophic Illness Regional Restricted Fund. Help Hope Live verifies medical and financial need for every patient.

Help Hope Live is a national nonprofit that specializes in engaging communities in secure, tax-deductible fundraising campaigns for people who need a transplant or are affected by a catastrophic injury or illness. Since 1983, campaigns organized by Help Hope Live have raised over $145 million to pay patient expenses. ###

Written by Emily Progin