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Country artist joins ALS fight after meeting Williams family

Nationwide Custom Homes

When hit country artist Mark McGuinn heard the story of a man thankful for his life despite the huge hurdle of being diagnosed with a terminal illness; it propelled him to immediate inspiration.

McGuinn's catchy yet soulful new single, "Move That Bus," reminds listeners to appreciate the positive aspects of life and to give back to their communities. Now, McGuinn plans to use the release of the single to benefit the ALS Association and work toward a cure for this disease that can without warning strike anyone who previously was in good health.

Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis is a disease of nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord that control voluntary muscle movement. The degenerative disease, also known as Lou Gehrig's disease for the baseball star who abruptly retired from the sport after his diagnosis with it, usually causes the continual loss of muscle strength and coordination. The terminal disease also commonly causes difficulty breathing or swallowing, and can lead to paralysis.

McGuinn's song was inspired by the story of Jeremy Williams, who has ALS, and the life changing home build project that brought his deserving family unparalleled joy.

With two disabled family members and a mold-infested house that was falling apart, Jeremy and Jennifer Williams, of Pine Mountain Valley, Ga., desperately needed a new home.

That's where ABC's hit television series Extreme Makeover: Home Edition partnered with the Martinsville-based Nationwide Homes, a leading builder of high-performance modular homes for single- and multi-family residences.

Each episode of the show surprises an active family with extensive home renovations or an entirely new house. For this episode, which airs in May, the team chose the Williams family.

In 2008, Jeremy Williams was diagnosed with ALS. According to his doctor, most patients with ALS live only two to four years after diagnosis.

Their son Jacob, now 6, was born with Spina Bifida, a development birth defect of the spine. Jacob is confined to his wheelchair and often had difficulty maneuvering around the previous family home. His mother, sister Josie, who is 8, helped him around and by his father until muscle weakness prevented him from doing so.

"We met the family through a video that was sent to us," said Dan Goodin, Vice President of Marketing at Nationwide. "It's a tough story to see. When the tape was over, everyone in the room said, ‘We have to do this.' "

Nationwide donated a single-story, energy-efficient dream home to the Williams family, and mobilized hundreds of volunteers who donated both their own time and money to make the project happen.

After the modular home was transported from Nationwide's production facility in Martinsville, Va. to Pine Mountain Valley, Ga., the team had only 109 hours to build the home on site.

"We are tremendously thankful," Williams said through tears upon seeing the house for the first time. "We are very truly blessed."

McGuinn also was touched by the Williams' story, and particularly by Jeremy Williams' constant optimism in the face of hardship. McGuinn heard the story from Maury Kennedy, his friend from high school who also is the Vice President of Sales and Marketing for Palm Harbor Homes. Nationwide Homes is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Palm Harbor Homes.

After text-messaging back and forth about the home build, McGuinn sent Kennedy a message that said, "How someone like Jeremy can feel blessed given the circumstances he is facing is simply awe inspiring. After reading his story, I grabbed my guitar, and a few minutes later the song was done!"  

Like most people, McGuinn knew Lou Gehrig was a baseball player who had ALS.  But he never knew what challenges the disease brings to those it affects. After learning more about the illness, the lyrics for "Move That Bus" came alive:

He won't give up so we won't either
Everybody knows God loves a believer
and believe me he's gonna see a little help from us
So move that bus

Like the Iron Horse
Lou Gehrig said
I've had a bad break
But somehow I feel blessed

McGuinn debuted the song in a concert in Raleigh, NC in mid April, and plans to use his platform to help spread the word about ALS. He plans to donate a portion of proceeds from sales of the single to researchers aiming to cure ALS. Nationwide Homes also has partnered with McGuinn and the ALS Association to help promote the cause.

The episode of ABC's "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition" featuring the Williams family airs on Sunday, May 16 at 8 p.m. EST.

About Mark McGuinn: A native of Greensboro, NC, Mark McGuinn is best known for his breakthrough Top 5 Country Single "Mrs. Steven Rudy," which debuted in 2001 and dominated the airwaves with its distinct charms. Other hits he has penned include the ballad "She Doesn't Dance," "Unusually Unusual," and the emotional tribute to the attacks of 9/11, "More Beautiful Today."

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