Coordinator steps up for first Agassiz Walk for ALS

‘This is for a man who saved a lot of lives in this community’: Edmondson

Agassiz will have its very first Walk for ALS on June 15 this year, thanks to a local woman stepping up to coordinate it.

Deanne Edmondson said she’s happy to be the key contact and organizer for the worthwhile event.

There will be Walks for ALS events happening throughout the province on the same day. However, the closest event to Agassiz so far will be Abbotsford. When she noticed a story and advertisement about the Walk for ALS, she immediately knew she wanted to participate. When she called the ALS Society for more information, she was told a coordinator would still be needed. She jumped at the chance.

“I’m doing it because of the connection I have with this wonderful family, the Wiehlers,” she said. Peter Wiehler, a longtime Agassiz paramedic, is living with ALS. He is also the father to Edmondson’s son’s girlfriend.

But even more than that, she says, Wiehler spent his life making Agassiz a better place.

“This is for a man who saved a lot of lives in this community,” she says. And while all the money raised through the walk will go toward the ALS Society of B.C., Edmondson is holding the walk in Wiehler’s honour.

There is currently no cure for ALS (also known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease), which is a progressive neuromuscular disease in which nerve cells die and leave voluntary muscles paralyzed. Every day, two or three Canadians die of the disease.

To make the Agassiz Walk for ALS a success, Edmondson is drawing from her previous experience with other fundraisers. She’s already planned an opening prayer by Paster Jim Flom, and has asked singer Andrew Putt to provide musical entertainment.

But she is also looking for sponsors, large and small. Anyone who would like to help is asked to call Edmondson right away. And of course, every walk needs participants.

Even though the event is in June, it’s time to start collecting pledges already, she says. Pledge forms are available online, along with more information about ALS and ALS research.

Edmondson is hoping to draw participants from Harrison Hot Springs, Hope, Chilliwack and even Mission. The 5 km walk will move throughout Agassiz. Registration will start at noon on June 15 and the walk will begin at 1 p.m.

For more information, contact Deanne Edmondson at agassizwalk@alsbc.ca or 604-796-2806.

Q&A: What are symptoms of ALS?

Editor’s note: The following question and answer piece was provided by the ALS Society of B.C.

Q. Why is ALS sometimes called Lou Gehrig’s Disease?

A: Many years ago, Lou Gehrig was known as professional baseball’s

“Ironman.”  With strength, agility, and excellent health, Gehrig had everything it took to become a baseball legend. At the peak of his career, he was diagnosed as having Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) and died two years later, at age 39.

Q. What are the early symptoms of ALS?

A. ALS usually becomes apparent either in the legs, arms, throat or upper chest area. Some people begin to trip and fall, some lose the use of their hands and arms, some find it hard to swallow and some slur their speech.

Since the disease frequently takes its toll before being positively diagnosed, many patients are debilitated before learning they have ALS. The disease wreaks a devastating effect on patients as well as their families.

As they struggle to cope with the prospect of advancing disability and death, ALS patients may find their financial, physical and emotional resources exhausted. It is a costly disease in its later stages — demanding both expensive nursing care and equipment.

Q. How do you “catch” ALS?

A. ALS cannot be “caught” – it is not contagious. In 90 per cent of cases, ALS strikes people with no family history of the disease. Only 10 per cent of cases are classified as familial or inherited. It may occur at any age, with the risk increasing as people grow older. However, many people are struck down in the prime of life.

Q. What needs to be done to beat ALS?

A. Although recent research has resulted in significant breakthroughs, more is needed to find a cure, but research costs money.

Q. Is there hope for people with ALS?

A. Yes, thanks to recent advances in research and drug therapies.

Q. What is the ALS Society of BC?

A. Established in 1981, the Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis Society of BC is a non-profit society.

It was founded by ALS patients, their family members and caregivers, and health care professionals to meet the physical and emotional needs of those living with ALS.

Q. What does the Society do?

A. The ALS Society of BC raises funds for both research and to provide direct services and support to those currently living with ALS.

Until a cure is found, the society provides patient services to improve the quality of life of those diagnosed with this disease by offering an extensive equipment loan program, support groups, and educational materials.

Patients are referred to the Society by neurologists and other healthcare professionals, particularly those at the ALS Centre at G.F. Strong Rehabilitation Centre.

Working together as partners, G.F. Strong team and the Society are dedicated to enhancing each patient’s quality of life.