McFarland residents came together to support a beloved friend, local activist and performer.
A benefit for Art Shegonee, who is suffering from mitochondrial myopathy, was held at Spartan Bowl on Saturday, Oct. 26.
Local musician Laura Miller performed. After, three-time Grammy winner Bill Miller spoke about his and Shegonee’s friendship and performed a short song.
“Art helped me come back to life,” Bill Miller said as he spoke of their friendship helping him through hard times.
He attended not to perform, but to stand by his friend.
There was also a raffle, silent auction and bake sale. A portion of proceeds from bowling benefitted Shegonee.
Shegonee, a professional dancer and performer, had no idea what was happening when his legs became weak. He noticed the distances he was able to walk were getting shorter over time and described his legs as feeling like jelly.
“I was just getting weaker and weaker, without ever really knowing what was wrong,” he said.
After first being diagnosed with spinal stenosis, he had two steel rods put in his neck. The next day, he fell while getting out of bed.
He was diagnosed with spinal mitochondrial myopathy in 2017 – a condition without a cure.
“I was kind of devastated,” he said. “I have no idea what’s this going to do to me.”
In early October, he visited Boston where a sample of more than 300 mitochondrion was taken. Results are scheduled to come back from Germany three to six weeks after the fundraiser.
Most of the lab’s samples are from Caucasians, and his is one of the few samples from indigenous peoples.
After hearing about his condition and treatment, his friends wanted to organize a fundraiser.
“I feel very loved and very honored that they would do that for me,” he said.
The last time Shegonee performed was at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame to honor Johnny Cash alongside his friend Bill Miller.
“If I can’t dance anymore or whatever, I just want to walk and do things with my grandkids and children and stuff like that,” he said. “You can’t ask for anything better than that.”