The temperatures were as warm as the camaraderie and support shown during Saturday’s Walk for Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) in Williams Lake’s Boitanio Park Saturday.
Clad in purple T-shirts, or some wearing green such as the family of Kirk Seibert who succumbed to ALS on Jan. 3, 2017, around 90 people participated in the event.
“ALS is not a nice disease,” said Kirk Seibert’s daughter, Chantelle Derbowka, who along with her mother Marguerite Seibert and sister Jennifer Yeung, travelled from Saskatchewan to participate in the walk, which was being organized by their grandmother Christina Seibert of Williams Lake.
“It quickly paralyzes and eats away your muscles,” Derbowka said of the impacts of ALS.
Kirk’s Seibert family chipped in and raised funds to purchase a device that enabled him to communicate, Marguerite said, adding her husband was very grateful for all the support he received.
“We hope to pass the equipment on to someone else,” she added.
An RCMP officer, Kirk was 59 years old when he died, passing away within 18 months of being diagnosed.
“He touched so many people and really, he was smiling up until he passed,” Marguerite said.
“He was thankful for the love, support and prayers and said he lived a good life.”
During the moment of silence before the walkers embarked on the first lap, Marguerite wished organizers had released some balloons in memory of those people who have died of ALS.
“I no sooner thought about the balloons and two let loose from one of the tents and flew up into the sky,” she said smiling.
ALS survivor Bill Montgomery was diagnosed with the disease in 2009.
As he spoke to the crowd he said in the past his arms were capable of giving bear hugs — something he can no longer do.
“Now I would like to become a member of the ALS research team so I can try some of their experiments out,” he said.
“If it didn’t work at least I gave it a try. And if my arms got better and started to improve, wow wee, it would be bear hugs for everybody.”
ALS Society of BC executive director Wendy Toyer said the society currently supports 400 people living with ALS.
“With the money raised today, 40 per cent will go to fund research and 60 per cent to assist people living with ALS,” she said. “The ALS ice bucket challenge injected lots of money into our efforts but we cannot stop there. We have to keep refuelling the researching machine.”
This was the first year Christina Seibert organized the walk in Williams Lake, taking the reins from Eileen Campbell and Heather Robertson who have done it for five years.
“We are in the process of forming a support committee for families,” Christina said. “We are in this because we lost our son to ALS. We know the impact and support that’s needed.”
Campbell said those three letters – ALS – changed her family’s lives when her husband was diagnosed in 2008 and died two years later.