SALEM, Va. (WFXR) — On Sept. 16, different ALS Association Chapters across the nation hosted their annual Walk to Defeat ALS. Our local chapter in Virginia was no different.
The event was to raise funds for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis or Lou Gehrig’s disease. It’s a rare progressive neurological disorder that affects nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord resulting in weakened muscles. Currently, it’s a terminal diagnosis, meaning it has no cure.
Over the years, the ALS Association has worked to raise more awareness of the disease, and on Saturday, the Roanoke Valley Community gathered at Green Hill Park to walk for the cause.
“We have a bold goal — by 2030 to make ALS a livable condition until a cure is found. So we’re going to keep walking until we can find that cure,” said Anthony Woodyard, Community Engagement Development Director for the ALS Association.
Woodyard said the event not only helps generate awareness but serves as a way for families who have been affected by ALS to have a shared space and come together to support each other.
“My husband had als and passed and they’ve been such a wonderful help to me and my family,” Anne Lawson. “I’m really glad to see so many people come forward and donating time and money. It’s great.”
The local chapter started its annual walks in 2006. Woodyard explains that the association provides grants and access clinics and loan programs for those with ALS at cost. Organizers said they anticipated the number of participants to be a couple hundred.
“We’re excited to be the oldest walk for the als association in the state of Virginia,” Woodyard said. “To be able to see our dollars put into action and to see the people who benefit from it come together in one place is really powerful.”
The event was not just about fundraising. One walker in attendance, Mark Kary, told WFXR that the event was to also advocate by seeing what’s being done to help and evaluating what can be done differently and what can be done better.
Kary has been living with a rare slowly progressing form of ALS. He says the disease led him to become an adaptive human being and advocate for the cause.
“This is the one time of year that I get to be involved in supporting others with ALS, not just about me,” Kary said.
He also shared the work being done for more accessibility in Roanoke.
“One of the things that we were able to do in the city of Roanoke is what I call open access barrier-free parking,” Kary said. “If they have their hangtag or if they have a license plate, they can park for up to 10 hours in any on-street parking in the city of Roanoke.”
Kary said that alone will help those with ALS who work. He said more work is still needed to make things more accessible to everyone.
This year, the goal is to raise $40,000. Before the day began, the organization was a little more than halfway there. For ways to get involved and donate, click here.