ALS supporters still walking to aid research and provide patient supports

ALS supporters still walking to aid research and provide patient supports

Walkers in Maple Ridge, Pitt Meadows, and Tri-Cities walk Saturday for an end to Lou Gehrig’s disease

Taking a walk on Saturday could really prove life changing – not only for the walker but for those currently and in future living with Lou Gehrig’s disease.

Like many fundraising events across the country, the large, public Walks to End ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis) held across Canada are not happening.

But what is happening is a virtual Tri-Cities/Ridge Meadows walk on Saturday, June 20 – the day before global ALS awareness day.

The goal for the local walk is to raise $38,000 this year. As of Thursday evening, the teams were only a quarter of the way to that goal, with just shy of $10,000 on the books – and half of that raised by Shawndra Forrest, who is walking in the regional walk in honour of her father, who was diagnosed with ALS about three years ago.

“The ALS Society has greatly helped my family with many of the issues that have arisen quickly over the last few years,” said Forrest, who’s personal goal is to raise $10,000.

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This event is the largest volunteer-led fundraiser for ALS Societies across Canada, and has been seen as a fun, family-friendly way to celebrate hope for a future without ALS, honour those we have loved and lost, and show support for the 3,000 Canadians and their families living with the disease.

Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the walks across the country are taking place virtually this weekend.

“Although we can’t walk together, we’re all in this together. Because ALS doesn’t stop, and neither will we,” said ALS executive director Wendy Toyer.

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Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis is a disease that gradually paralyzes people because the brain is no longer able to communicate with the muscles of the body that we are typically able to move at will. Over time, as the muscles of the body break down, someone living with ALS will lose the ability to walk, talk, eat, swallow, and eventually breathe. Eighty per cent of people with ALS die within two to five years of being diagnosed.

“Your fundraising efforts and generous donations support the best ALS research in the country (40 per cent of proceeds) and enable ALS Societies to provide community-based support (60 per cent of proceeds) to people and families living with the disease,” she said.

This year, funds raised for ALS research will be matched dollar for dollar by Brain Canada – up to $1 million, Toyer explained.

The Canada Brain Research Fund is a partnership between the Government of Canada (through Health Canada) and Brain Canada, designed to encourage Canadians to increase their support of brain research, and maximize the impact and efficiency of those investments.

ALS can affect anyone regardless of gender, ethnicity or age. It most often affects people aged 40-60, with an estimated 3,000 Canadians currently living with disease, and an average of 1,000 a year dying.

The ALS Society of BC is dedicated to providing direct support to ALS patients, along with their families and caregivers, to ensure the best quality of life possible while living with ALS. This support includes an extensive equipment loan program, support groups, psychological support and educational materials. Through supporting research, we are committed to finding the cause of, and cure for ALS.

People can visit the walk website to register or donate.

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ALS supporters still walking to aid research and provide patient supports