'HOPE for Steve' campaign hits home on the holiday in Mt. Pleasant
This Christmas was the first since Steve Dezember II and his wife, Hope, got married in 2011 that the couple did not travel to visit Hope's family in Mt. Pleasant.
Hope Dezember, formerly Hope Cross, a Mt. Pleasant Area graduate, said she and her husband would particularly miss sharing her patented eggnog with her folks.
“We always have spent Thanksgiving with Steve's family and Christmas with mine,” Hope said.
However, a trip up north was not possible as Steve, who lives with Hope at the couple's home in Johns Creek, Ga., continues his battle with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), otherwise known as Lou Gehrig's disease.
“Steve felt sad that we were not going to be visiting our family in Mt. Pleasant like we've done in the past, but I told him, ‘It doesn't matter where we spend it, as long as you're still here, it's Christmas,'” Hope Dezember said.
In August 2011, Steve, 31, was diagnosed with ALS, a progressive neurodegenerative disease that affects nerve cells in the brain and the spinal cord.
The disorder is characterized by rapidly progressive weakness, muscle atrophy, fasciculations and muscle spasticity, as well as difficulty speaking, swallowing and breathing.
Two days after he was diagnosed with ALS, Steve proposed to Hope, then his girlfriend of six months.
Two months later, the couple married, and their wedding was eventually featured on an episode of TLC's “Say Yes to the Dress — Atlanta.”
The Dezembers' last trip to western Pennsylvania came in early May, when their friend Kate Ferri of Murrysville held a Cinco de Mayo fundraiser event for the “HOPE for Steve” campaign at her mother Lynne Ferri's restaurant, The Lamplighter, in Delmont.
The campaign is designed to raise awareness for the disease and generate funding to aid in Steve's continuing medical treatment. More information is available at www.hopeforsteve.com or at HOPE for Steve on Facebook.
After the Dezember's last trip north, Hope's mother, borough resident Donna Eckel McCullough, had a feeling they might not be home for the holidays, she said.
“They're a great team, they work great together ... and they're doing exactly what they said they wanted to do,” said McCullough, adding that she makes regular trips south to see them.
“They've got so many people reaching out to them makes the distance easier for me,” she said.
While Steve spent the past summer in and out of the hospital for treatment of various illnesses related to his condition, he has spent the past two months at home with his wife.
“He had a lung infection, which he's had for about five months, actually, but I am able to treat it at home with antibiotics intravenously,” Hope said.
The couple's home contains myriad medical equipment, as Hope said she has acquired the abilities of a full-time nurse over time.
More importantly, the home is also ornamented with Christmas decorations which bring the couple happiness at this time at home with their dogs, Marlowe, a black Labrador retriever, and Ozzie, a parson russell terrier, she said.
“We've spent quite a few days in the hospital, so we're just happy to be home,” Hope said.
Since June, Steve's high school friend Jeremy Brown, an artist, has aided the Dezembers in establishing the DRIVE for a Cure campaign.
The initiative allows Steve, who is bound to a wheelchair, the chance to create unique pieces of abstract art by driving over sheets of canvas with paint-covered wheels.
Proceeds from all DRIVE purchases are contributed to ALS research, as well as toward Steve and Hope, to help cover continuous medical expenses.
More information on that initiative is at www.driveforacure.com.
“The love between Hope and Steve, and the support that Hope has shown for Steve has been very inspiring, and I just wanted to help capture that on canvas,” Brown said.
In January, the couple hopes to hold a DRIVE For A Cure fundraising event in Western Pennsylvania, Hope said.
Money is also being raised online for Steve via a Kickstarter campaign for a film titled “The Documentary Hope for Steve” by Matthew Moore
Those interestered in contributing to that campaign can visit http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/98927736/the-documentary-hope-for-steve.
Those who would like to help the Dezembers can also make donations by mailing checks made payable to Hope for Steve Dezember, 10650 Colony Glen Drive, Johns Creek, GA 30022.
A.J. Panian is an editor for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-547-5722 or firstname.lastname@example.org.