PARKERSBURG - Former Ritchie County standout athlete Missy Spangler has two loves in her life these days-the sport of running and her family.
Now, the 2001 W.Va. Girls High School Basketball Player of the Year has found a way to combine the two and, at the same time, help finance the fight against Parkinson's disease as part of Team Fox.
Founded by Michael J. Fox, who is best known for his role in "Back to the Future", Team Fox is the grassroots fundraising arm for the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson's Research (MJFF). Each year, more than 1,500 Team Fox fundraisers worldwide turn their passions and interests into unique fundraising events and athletic feats.
Former Ritchie County standout athlete Missy Spangler, left, will be competing in the News and Sentinel Half Marathon to raise funds in the fight against Parkinson’s disease.
Since its inception in 2006, the group has raised an astounding $15 million for Parkinson's research, helping the Foundation achieve its mission of accelerating new treatments and, ultimately, a cure for Parkinson's disease.
"It was just one of those things," explained Spangler, who earned all-state honors in cross country all four years in high school. I don't even remember how we found it (the foundation). For me, I just felt like I needed something."
Especially, once it was discovered that the hand tremors experienced by Spangler's father, Terry, was the beginning of Parkinson's.
"At first, we all thought it was just his nerves," continued the runner. "It wasn't until I was preparing to leave for Robert Morris, that we found out what he really had."
A discovery that nearly kept the basketball standout in Ritchie County.
"My freshman year was tough. If it had not been for the relationship that I had developed with my coach, I probably would have come back home. But, then again, dad probably would not have let me do that."
Spangler did spend three seasons at the Pittsburgh-based school before transferring to West Virginia Wesleyan where she ran track, competing in the steeple chase and cross country, where she earned all-WVIAC honors.
Following graduation Spangler took a job in Ohio, but as her dad's fight with Parkinson worsened, the need to return to her native West Virginia increased and she took a position with a firm in Ripley.
"I felt like I needed to be closer to home," said Spangler. "Mom (Carol) is dad's primary care giver, but being closer to home allows me to help out more."
Which was the driving motive behind Spangler joining thousands of others on Team Fox.
"Over the years, dad has really gotten progressively worse. Watching him go through that is kind of depressing so mom and I talked about what we could do to make something positive out of all of this."
The answer was a simple one-run.
"Dad was my cross country coach in high school and, while I don't think he would ever admit it, I think he really enjoyed coaching cross country. It (running) has allowed me to deal with dad's disease and, at the same time, find a way to raise money to help find a cure for it."
As a member of Team Fox, Spangler decided to form Team Spangler.
"You can join Team Fox and have your own team within which is where I came up with Team Spangler. It just seemed perfect for everyone that has had a relationship with my dad. All monies raised, however, go directly to Team Fox."
And, Team Spangler will be on the start line for the 26th News and Sentinel Half Marathon when it starts at 8 a.m on Saturday, Aug. 18.
"I ran it (the News and Sentinel Half Marathon) both my junior and senior year in high school and again last year," said Spangler, who will compete in the New York City Marathon in November. "Dad was able to compete with me the first two times. He ran in the Clydesdale division. But, last year Holly (Vaughan) ran it with me."
Spangler will have plenty of company in this year's race as the elite field has grown to 49 runners, including defending men's champion, and course record-holder, Julius Kogo.
Also in the field will be three-time champion Alene Reta as well as 2012 Ogden Half Marathon champion Tariku Bokan and two-time grandmaster champion John Brockenbrough.
The list of elites also includes two women from Japan, Asami Kato and Sakiko Matsumi, as well as three from Russia-Ksenyia Agafonova, Livbov Denisova, and Irina Permitina.
Entries are still being excepted at NewsandSentinelHalfMarathon.com.