HUNTSVILLE – Chris Ratcliffe has a very personal reason for organizing a Walk for ALS in Huntsville. Her father, Wayne, passed away from the disease just over a year and a half ago.
WALK FOR ALS.
Participants gear up for the inaugural ALS walk in Huntsville in 2011. They raised $10,000. This year's walk is on Sept. 15.
Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) is a paralyzing neuromuscular disease commonly known as Lou Gehrig’s disease.
“It was brutal; worst disease I’ve ever seen,” said Ratcliffe. “With ALS the person’s mind is completely clear and they become trapped in their body. Their muscles disintegrate, they can’t speak, and they can’t swallow. My dad was very outgoing, very athletic and watching him slowly disintegrate to the point where all he could do was blink to answer a question, but you knew he had so much to say, was horrible.”
Ratcliffe said her father’s struggle with ALS was rapid, lasting about a year. Most people can live five or more years with ALS.
“The biggest thing with this disease is there’s no rhyme or reason with who it hits,” said Ratcliffe. “There’s no age, no ethnic group and it can be anyone in your family because it’s not hereditary. If everyone can participate even a little bit, it makes people’s lives so much easier. The one thing about this area in Muskoka and this town is that people are so giving, it’s huge.”
The walk in Huntsville is the only ALS walk in Muskoka. During the inaugural walk in 2011, the event raised more than $10,000 with just 30 participants. Ratcliffe is hoping to have at least 50 participants this year.
“Over 80 per cent of the money raised at these walks goes back to the patients,” she said. “It’s for equipment and services for them. With ALS Ontario all you have to do is register with them. With our family, they supplied everything for my dad and there’s no way we could have done it; from the first walker to the next wheelchair, up to the time he was done he had a wheelchair with head controls and speech computers that picked up the movement of his eyes. That’s what this money funds; it gives people a little bit more freedom to allow them to keep moving and doing things with their family before it’s too late.”
Participating in the walk is a way for Ratcliffe to give back to the organization and pay it forward to other families that are affected by ALS.
“My dad’s gone, but I want to give back,” she said. “The more participants we can get out and the more money we can raise, it makes the quality of life for that next person better.”
The Huntsville Walk for ALS is on Sept. 15 at Avery Beach Park. Registration is at 9 a.m. with the event beginning at 10 a.m. To participate in the walk or make a pledge visit www.walkforals.ca.