Facing ALS, Warren's Natalie Swift is living on faith
On most days, her friends and family say, Natalie Swift does better than they do.
It's been nearly a year since the Warren mother of six learned she had Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), also known as Lou Gehrig's Disease. The disease is fatal and is particularly cruel, as it robs its victims of their bodies while leaving their minds intact. But Ms. Swift, who graduated from Bristol High School in 1985 and is married to the love of her life, Warren native Neil Swift, is proving an inspiration to those close to her — her children, spouse and many, many friends in Bristol and Warren.
"She's so strong," said her sister-in-law, Leslie Swift. "She has incredible faith and is putting everything in God's hands. She never complains, never gets down, never asks why."
"She's the strongest person I've ever met," added family friend Jim Harper, who grew up with Neil Swift in the Laurel Park neighborhood. "She's always smiling, she's always happy. She truly believes that it's God's plan, whatever happens."
Since she was first diagnosed, Ms. Swift has stayed out of the public eye, fighting the illness with her young children and husband, who she's known since they were teens. But friends have lent a hand and held a series of fund-raisers — a golf outing, dinner and most recently, cookie sale at Savon Shoes — that have helped the family tremendously as they face astronomical expenses.
As those expenses mount, an even bigger fund-raiser is planned for two weeks from now.
On August 3, friends and family expect upwards of 800 to 1,000 to attend a fund-raising concert at the Burr's Hill band shell. "A Swift Concert" runs from 5 to 10 p.m. and features a show by Neal and the Vipers (formerly Young Neal and the Vipers). The local band will play blues and rock n' roll, and the opening set will be by Juniper Hill.
Mr. Harper said organizers hope to raise $100,000, and they plan to use some of the money to buy a handicap-accessible van to help Mrs. Swift get around. The rest will go toward other expenses.
"If we can raise $100,000, we can stop the fund-raising for now," he said. All proceeds benefit the Natalie Swift Foundation.
Though past fund-raisers were successful, Mr. Harper said, "we thought a large concert, where a lot of people could come out, would be perfect." Tickets are $20, and 400 have been sold so far.
To call it just a concert, though, sells it short. There will also be a silent auction, concessions by Amaral's, Balasco's and a catered truck.There will be a cash bar — the Warren Town Council agreed to issue an alcohol permit for the event, which it seldom does at Burr's Hill — and more. Snow fencing will be put up, there will be three tents for dining, a beer garden and the auction, and more. Children are welcome, too.
"It's going to be a pretty big production," Mr. Harper said.
Natalie Swift: Here's how to help
Want to help the family of Neil and Natalie Swift as they fight her ALS diagnosis? Here's a few ways:
August 3 concert
A fund-raising concert and silent auction, with food and drinks, will be held from 5 to 8 p.m. Saturday, August 3, at the Burr's Hill band shell (raindate Sunday, August 4). Tickets are $20 and can be purchased at Swift Results Golf Center, Amaral's Fish and Chips, Savon Shoes and Gil's Appliance in Bristol. Or call Jim Harper at 640-8229, Karyn Travers-Harper at 486-3796 or Liz DeLeo Miller at 641-3536.
Hit some balls
As Neil Swift helps his wife with her illness, he has had less time to spend with his two businesses, Swift Results Golf Center on Market Street, and his contracting business. Family friend Jim Harper suggested that if folks want to help the family, they can go and hit a bucket of balls, or call Mr. Swift for any contracting work they may need done.
For some time, friends have been bringing by regular meals so the Swifts don't have to worry about preparing dinner. That continues; those who want to help out can contact the numbers listed above, or purchase gift cards to local restaurants that will deliver.
For more information on Mrs. Swift and her situation, click on a website dedicated to her cause.