Murray Young and JoAnne Nygard hold hands and walk together at the start of the ALS Walk on Saturday.
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Murray Brown knows far too well that ALS can strike at any time, and affect anybody.
The Thunder Bay Police officer was diagnosed with the disease last December and was joined by many of his family and friends, as well as others who have had their lives affected by the disease at the Thunder Bay Walk for ALS on Saturday at the Chapples Park area.
Brown has received support from many of his work colleagues, and was joined at the walk by former police officer and current mayor Keith Hobbs as well as chief of police J.P. Levesque.
“I’m really also stunned for words. This is amazing,” Brown said prior to the walk. “This is my first time here. I plan on being here for many more years, and it’s just amazing seeing all of the people and colleagues and friends that they’re showing here.”
In Thunder Bay, there are currently eight people that are registered to be suffering from ALS, or Lou Gehrig’s disease as it is also commonly known.
The disease is neuromuscular and has been proven to affect people of all ages, and ALS is a progressively debilitating disease without a cause or cure.
Brown and his network was able to raise $11,000 for the walk, as his colleagues pitched in and used social media to drive the cause. His drive alone brought in over half of the event’s $20,000 goal.
“When I initially started the fundraising we set a lofty goal of $3,000. We sent out emails, talked to colleagues and friends and family and it just ballooned from there,” Brown said.
“People put it on Facebook and it went off like crazy. It’s just astounding how much support that I’ve gotten for donations and support in general.”
ALS Canada Thunder Bay regional manager Kim Barry said that 60 per cent of the money raised for the walk goes to support services for patients, while the remaining 40 per cent is devoted towards research.
The cause is also near and dear to walk coordinator Audrey Hansen, who lost her husband John to the disease in 2006, as well as an uncle and two cousins.
Both Barry and Hansen said the disease is a family event, as the debilitating nature means those diagnosed need support and assistance, and said ALS is a very expensive illness.
They added in addition to fundraising, a primary function of the walk is to increase public awareness that the disease can hit anybody and that there is no cure.
“It is very much a family disease. It’s very debilitating,” Barry explained. “The individual’s ability to walk and talk is affected and unfortunately this is a terminal illness. Our goal is to get people aware and raise some money for the people of Thunder Bay and raise some money for research.”
Due to the nature, those affected by the disease and their families have created a support community to aid those who are newly diagnosed as well as provide the ability to lean on each other through tough times.
Brown said since his diagnosis nearly 10 months ago he has seen a tremendous outpouring of support from the local organization, as well as the community of those affected.
“Before being diagnosed I wasn’t aware of the community and who was involved and who has been affected,” Brown said. “Since my diagnosis it’s been amazing the support from ALS Canada and from the local community with all of my family, friends and work colleagues.”
Those looking to donate can go to www.als.ca and allocate the money to the walk for up to a month.
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