Life takes a terrible turn for Pugh

Aug. 18 benefit to help raise funds for battle with ALS

It was just last November when Gavin Pugh was fighting to help get his Champlin Park High School boys soccer team into what would be his second state tournament appearance as the Rebels head coach.

The bout would go his way, as the Rebels made their way into the Class AA field after a tightly contested, nerve-wracking shootout victory against Mounds View in the Section 5 final.

As another fall sports season approaches, Pugh now finds himself in another fight.

This time, however, the purpose has nothing to do with a tournament, or a game of any sorts.

This is his life.

Pugh was diagnosed with Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis in March. It is a disease known simply as ALS, or even more commonly, as just Lou Gehrig’s disease.

There is no known cure, and according to various medical websites, most of those afflicted with ALC survive around 40 months after being diagnosed.

According to Champlin Park activities director Matt Mattson, Pugh had resigned from his position as the school’s head boys soccer coach after last season, citing a desire to spend more time at home with his wife and young children.

“He didn’t even know then he was sick,” Mattson told me. “He just wanted to be with his kids more. That was what he told me. Then I spoke with him this spring and he told me what was going on. I was heart-broken.”

The disease is not as rare as one would hope. According to one informational website, of the current U.S. population living today, over 250,000 of us will perish from ALS.

Over 5,000 people in the U.S. are diagnosed each year.

Many in this part of the metro are already familiar with the effects of ALS.

Longtime Anoka County Commissioner and Minnesota Boxing Hall of Fame inductee Scott LeDoux was diagnosed with ALS in August of 2008.

The man would stand inside a boxing rings with the likes of Leon Spinks, Muhammad Ali and even Mike Tyson.

None of those men would rattle him, but ALS proved to be an opponent that would eventually take him down.

Almost three years to the day after being diagnosed, LeDoux passed in August of 2011.

Pugh’s timetable is unknown.

For obvious reasons, he’s tightened his circle to primarily family and friends. But there is a way to reach out should anyone want to offer support.

A fundraising event is being held from 3 to 7 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 18 at Brit’s Pub in downtown Minneapolis. There will be a silent auction and a raffle, and a minimum donation fee ranging from $10 to $35 – the amount varies by age – will go to the family to help offset the costs of ongoing medical expenses for the testing and treatment of the disease.

The event, which is being titled ‘Kickin’ it for Coach Gavin’ is one of several organizers hope to put together as the Pugh family tries to organize the next phase of life.

Much of what Pugh has accomplished since moving stateside from his native England had to do with teaching soccer.

Prior to coaching five years of high school ball at Champlin Park, he held the same job at Mounds View High School.

He also worked as the director of Dragon Soccer, a program that in 2012 alone helped educate over 16,000 kids about the game.

He’s touched many, and the chance to return the favor is now.

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