Each year, more than 5,000 people are diagnosed with the fatal disease Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, commonly known as ALS. The average life expectancy of someone with ALS is two to five years. There is no known cure for this disease.
Last weekend, community members gathered on the University of Toledo’s campus to walk in honor of those who have fought and are still fighting the battle of living with ALS. UT hosted the Toledo Walk to Defeat ALS on Sept. 10; the walk was a two-and-a-half mile on-campus trek which began and ended at Savage Arena.
Registration included a UT steel drum performance, and appearances from Ronald McDonald, the UT women’s basketball team and Rocky and Rocksy.
More than 33 teams pre-registered to walk, each team honoring a person struggling with ALS or a loved one who has passed.
Ruth Moeller, founder of the Toledo Walk, said she started the walk 14 years ago, and walks in memory of her husband, Paul, who passed from ALS on Sept. 11, 2002.
“His struggle was just 2 years,” Moeller said. “Our team is called Paul’s Crew because Paul was a sailor and valued a good crew. It is said that it took a ‘crew’ to help him with his devastating struggle.”
Each individual team has the opportunity to raise money on their own. Moeller said the money raised at this event and other walks supports the programs, services and activities for the ALS Association’s Northern Ohio Chapter, along with funding ALS research.
She said that she and her husband benefitted greatly from the chapter’s resources.
“Professional activities [are] available to more than 400 persons with ALS in the area,” Moeller said. “The resources through the loan closet, the respite care in the form of reimbursement for the caregiver’s caring for themselves, etcetera, are vital for the family.”
Mary Wheelock, executive director of the ALS Association Northern Ohio Chapter, said that their fundraising goal was $11,000 and 800 people were expected to attend.
“The Toledo Walk to Defeat ALS is the Chapter’s largest fundraiser in the Northwest Ohio region,” Wheelock said. “All funds raised remain in the region and provide programs and services free of charge to those living with ALS.”
Ashley Delp, current chair of the Toledo Walk, said that each dollar raised is a step closer to making the discovery for a cure or treatment for ALS.
“Most ALS patients only live two to four years from their date of diagnosis,” Delp said. “I would love to see this statistic change in my lifetime.”
Delp said her family has also been greatly affected by ALS.
“I have lost my paternal grandmother, her identical twin, my second cousin, my uncle, and my father to ALS,” Delp said. “We have a familial case of ALS that is carried through a hereditary gene. There is a 50 percent chance that I, too, may one day develop the symptoms of ALS and be a carrier of that gene.”
Delp said the walk is important because it allows the patients and families a day to celebrate the lives affected by the disease.
“Each patient has a story, a family, a history worth celebrating,” Delp said. “We hope that walk day helps them to know they are loved, cared for and important to us all.”