Emotions were high as over 100 people gathered in Boitanio Park for the Eighth Annual Walk to End ALS on Saturday.
ALS, or amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, is a devastating neurodegenerative disease with no known cure with a typical life expectancy of two to five years after diagnosis. As it progresses those afflicted slowly lose control of their muscles throughout the body leading to immobilization and eventually death.
Despite this grim prognosis, families across Canada have refused to accept this outcome and walk annually to raise awareness and money for finding a cure. The Walk to End ALS is the ALS Society of B.C.’s biggest fundraising effort of the year, who use 60 per cent of the proceeds to assist those fighting it and 40 per cent to research a cure for it.
This year the message of never giving up was particularly poignant, as it marked the first time since the event’s founding in Williams Lake that longtime activist and ALS survivor Bill Montgomery was not in attendance. Bill’s 10-year long battle with the disease came to an end in May just a little over a month before the event, a reminder of the urgency and necessity of this cause.
At the walk’s opening, the Montgomery family read from a letter penned by Bill on May 19th shortly before his passing a few days later. In it, he thanked all of his friends, supporters and caregivers for all the love, kindness and memories they’d given him over his life and long battle with ALS.
“Some people were saying when you’re getting old, you’re going downhill. I say, the mountain gets a little steeper and you start to slip a little bit and I’ve had two slips this week. To my fabulous family, my wife Elsie, my children, grandchildren and all our extended family, also to those I have met over the past 70 plus years, without all your support this slide would have been much greater,” Bill wrote. “To all the ALS professionals thank you so much for everything you have done for me and my family.”
Ultimately, Bill concluded by asking everyone to keep on smiling. A minute of silence was held after the Montgomery family talked, with Bill’s wheelchair sitting in front of the entire crowd.
ALS and emotion had left Angus Morrison’s speech affected, so he chose to address the crowd through his daughter Ronda Morrison. Angus thanked everyone for all their support both at the event and in his day-to-day life.
“Without this support, going down the ALS pathway would be a horrific journey. ALS is a disease that is always taking away, and I truly hope in your lives that you can keep giving because without your giving it would be a rough journey,” Angus relayed through Ronda.
After speeches by several other dignitaries, the walkers, a mix of young and old, mobile and in wheelchairs, set out across Boitanio Park led by Aubrey Jackson of the Williams Lake Pipe Band. They made as many laps as they wished before enjoying a barbeque before a brief rain shower.
You can make a donation at walktoendals.ca or contact local organizers Chris Seibert at 250-392-5087 or Eileen Campbell at 250-267-7611 for more information.