Hundreds of people turned out on a chilly Sparks morning to participate in the ALS Association’s Second Annual ALS Walk at the Sparks Marina.
Despite the “bite” in the air, there was no lack of enthusiasm for the multiple teams of walkers who raised more than $32,000 in the fight to find a cure for ALS – Amyotrohic Lateral Sclerosis – better known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease. The organization’s goal was $22,000 after raising $14,000 in 2015.
Dozens of teams gathered prior to the start time and they could find each other by their team T-shirts and T-shirt colors and there even were a few tutus.
But not all participants were on a team. One woman, Kay Harmon of Sparks, found out about the April 30 event while looking at the City of Sparks website. “I just found out about it. I was looking on the Sparks website and happened to see it, and I even took the day off from work today to come out and do this because every little bit helps. It doesn’t matter if it is $5, $50, $100, every little bit helps.”
Harmon remembers the day well when her father passed away.
“I lost my father August 27, 2000, to ALS. It’s just a horrible, horrible disease, and we have to do something about it,” she said as tears rolled down her cheek. “Your body just completely gives out on you and your mind … you can’t move, you can’t express yourself. It’s no way to go.”
Harmon said her dad, Bob Harmon, was misdiagnosed for five years as having emphysema rather than ALS. “My dad basically suffocated. He was in a nursing home. He was fighting it and it took him … he lasted less than two years.” He had gone to a number of doctors in the Las Vegas area prior to his moving to Hawthorne where he was diagnosed with ALS. That’s where he wanted to live out his days being out with nature.
“It’s horrible to see someone you love suffer.”
Harmon heaped praise on her dad’s care-givers: “They were amazing.”
Others at the event included Brady Price of Accellence Home Medical Equipment. “I’m here to support ALS and some of the patients and clients here. I’m a help to them to get them power chairs and custom manual wheel chairs. I think this just a great organization and a great cause. So I’m here to support the walk to just see the community and gain some new friends.”
Prior to the actual walk, Development and Event Coordinator Carly Dickinson told the group that with such great fund-raising a Northern Nevada Coordinator so that free services are provided to ALS patients and their families. “We’ve been able to open an ALS clinic thanks to Dr. Tim Louie. It’s one-stop shopping for all our ALS patients.”
“Today is our day,” Dr. Louie said as he was handed the microphone. “About a year ago, I nervously stood in front of people at another event and promised them that we’d have an ALS clinic in town soon. I didn’t know what soon meant, but I said soon. On April 22 we had our first clinic, and on behalf of St. Mary’s (Medical Center) and our crew at St. Mary’s and others, I thank you from the bottom of my heart as you help people.”
“We’re just so thankful for the support that the Northern Nevada community has given,” said April Mastroluca as the walkers began their two-mile trek around the Marina. She is executive director of the ALS Association Nevada Chapter. “We have about 30 people in Northern Nevada that we provide support services at no charge. We have the ALS clinic that we provide.”
ALS was first found in 1869 by French neurologist Jean-Martin Charcot, but it wasn’t until 1939 that Lou Gehrig brought national and international attention to the disease. Ending the career of one of the most beloved baseball players of all time, the disease is still most closely associated with his name. Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) is a progressive neurodegenerative disease that affects nerve cells in the brain and the spinal cord. Motor neurons reach from the brain to the spinal cord and from the spinal cord to the muscles throughout the body. The progressive degeneration of the motor neurons in ALS eventually leads to their death. When the motor neurons die, the ability of the brain to initiate and control muscle movement is lost. With voluntary muscle action progressively affected, patients in the later stages of the disease may become totally paralyzed.
In the past year, the awareness of ALS has been raised through the “Ice Bucket Challenge” that swept the country. Every-day citizens, politicians and celebrities got into action by challenging others to donate and promote research into the cause of this disease.