For Mandy Van Dresar, the fight against ALS is a personal one. Her mother Judy was diagnosed with the disease in October 2014, and succumbed to it in April 2017 at the age of 58.
“[It was] very short, and sad to see someone so active and so involved in everything to losing everything but her brain. It was very sad.”
Van Dresar is the coordinator for the Grande Prairie WALK for ALS, which will be held this weekend in Muskoseepi Park. In addition to raising funds for the ALS Society of Alberta, she also hopes the event will raise awareness of ALS, which is also known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease.
“It’s one of the most horrible diseases that you’ll ever probably encounter,” she says. “It’s always rapid and always fatal.”
According to the society, ALS stops the brain from being able to communicate with muscles of the body, gradually breaking them down and paralyzing those afflicted. There is no cure, few treatment options, and roughly 80 per cent of people die within two to five years of being diagnosed.
“It can strike anybody at any time, regardless of their age or sex,” explains Van Dresar. “There’s nothing to say that it has to be family history; it’s just random. It’s just a weird disease, and that’s why I’m so passionate about raising money for this society.”
Forty per cent of the funds raised through the annual walk go towards research, while the other 60 per cent provide support through services like the provincial equipment loan program, support groups, home visits, education, and children’s programs locally.
“Any little bit helps go towards research, and hopefully one day having a treatment,” says Van Dresar.
Registration for the Grande Prairie WALK for ALS will start at Muskoseepi Park at 9 a.m. on Saturday, June 9th. The walk itself will kick off at 10 a.m. and be followed by a barbecue. Donations are accepted but not required to participate.