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Lupus Loop

The Ohio Valley Roller Girls are teaming up to deliver some big hits on lupus by skating in the 16th annual Lupus Loop. The 5K run/walk/skate takes place October 1, 2011, on Pittsburgh’s North Shore at the Heinz Field Great Lawn. Proceeds from this event benefit The Lupus Foundation of Pennsylvania, and all money raised helps local patients and their families.

Women from Ohio, West Virginia, and western Pennsylvania comprise one of Ohio’s newest flat-track roller derby leagues, the Ohio Valley Roller Girls. Skaters take pride in contributing to a variety of charitable causes and remaining involved in their surrounding communities, and raising awareness about lupus is especially important to the league. Ashley “Demolition Mortician” Suder skates fast and hits hard for the Ohio Valley Roller Girls All Stars and the Death House Dames, all while fighting the systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) that she was diagnosed with nearly a year ago, following five years of undiagnosed symptoms.

Lupus is a chronic, inflammatory disease in which the immune system does not function correctly and attacks otherwise healthy organs and tissues, rather than protecting them. Approximately 1.5 million Americans have been diagnosed with some form of lupus, including 66,000 in Pennsylvania alone. The disease affects more Americans than leukemia, multiple sclerosis, muscular dystrophy, and cystic fibrosis combined. Lupus can affect all body systems in varying severity and forms and afflicts both sexes and all ages, although it occurs 10 times more frequently in women than men, especially women of child-bearing age (15-44). There are no known genes that cause the illness, and so far, there is no cure. Symptoms are different from person to person and range from mild to severe complications. The current goal of treatment is to control the symptoms with medication, meaning that lupus patients must often try several drugs before finding one or a combination that helps them, and they often suffer from side effects of these drugs. Some patients live a relatively normal day-to-day life, and some struggle through constant flares and remissions of their symptoms, making it difficult to ever fully adjust.

Ashley says that SLE has totally changed and disrupted her life: “Every day is different with this disease, and it's a constant battle for me, but I try to make the most of it. I take out a lot of my rage against the disease by being a member of the Ohio Valley Roller Girls. Playing derby is difficult with lupus, to say the least, but I fight through it.” And fight valiantly she does. As a graduate of the Pittsburgh Institute of Mortuary Science, Ashley adopted the derby name “Demolition Mortician” when she started skating. Her teammates affectionately call her “Morty” and are impressed and inspired by her strength and tenacity at every practice and bout. They have joined forces to skate in the Lupus Loop and raise awareness about lupus and funds for continuing research and education.

Research to continue the search for a cause and a cure, as well as the creation of more effective drugs, is key to making it easier to live with lupus — and, hopefully, someday without it. The Ohio Valley Roller Girls Lupus Loop team has a competitive spirit in fundraising, as well as in roller derby, and is hoping to be among the top fundraising teams for the event. To donate safely and securely to the team via the participating roller girl of your choice, visit the team’s First Giving website at For more information about lupus, to register for the event, or to find out details so you can cheer on the team at the event, check out the Lupus Foundation of Pennsylvania website at To find out more about the Ohio Valley Roller Girls, including when you can catch Demolition Mortician and her teammates in action this season, visit


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