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Connellsville Area High School students helping Finley's Fighters

| Thursday, Oct. 7, 2010

Four-year-old Finley Pletcher has a high school full of fans.

Each year, Connellsville Area High School Student Council raises money for a cause by selling links for a paper chain that will be hung up around Falcon Stadium for the Homecoming game. The game will take place at 7:30 p.m. Friday.

This year, the students chose Finley's Fighters as their cause. Finley, the daughter of Jennifer and Mathew Pletcher of Connecticut and granddaughter of Phyllis and Ted Kovall of Connellsville, is going blind.

In August 2009, Finley was diagnosed with Lebers Congenital Amaurosis, caused by a mutation on the RD12 gene. This is the rarest form of LCA and may only affect about 85 Americans. No treatment exists, but genetic therapy has been effective with another form of LCA and the Pletchers hope a similar technique with the RD12 gene will prevent Finley's and others' blindness.

The Pletchers plan to raise $10,000 yearly for research.

Finley visited CAHS several times and met student council members, other students, teachers and staff. She will be at the bonfire tonight and ride a float in the Homecoming Parade on Friday.

"She's really enjoying herself," Ted Kovall said.

Local Lions clubs also donated to Finley's Fighters.

"Please support your Lions Club wherever you live," Phyllis Kovall said. "This just continues to amaze us. Finley will probably never really appreciate all the people who have stepped forward for her and for us. Our hearts flow over."

Last weekend, 60 of Finley's Fighters participated in the Pittsburgh VisionWalk. They raised $10,600 for the Foundation Fighting Blindness, a Maryland-based group that drives research to prevent, treat and cure degenerative retinal diseases.

"There are no words to say thanks," Ted Kovall said.

The high school will hold at least one more fundraising event for Finley's Fighters.

The CAHS National Honor Society is planning a dinner to support Finley's Fighters. It will be from 4 to 7 p.m. Nov. 4. at the Connellsville Area Career and Technical Center. More details will follow.

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