Being a baseball fan most of my life, I always knew about Lou Gehrig's disease, but my knowledge was very limited. I did not know anyone directly impacted by it until I got an email late last year from an old college friend, Jay, letting us know that he had recently been diagnosed with ALS.
A group of eight of us, including Jay, became friends when we met in the dorms on the 5th floor annex (5a) at the University of San Francisco in the fall of 1977. We all became fast friends, spending those years together as a group, a unit. So when we heard the news about Jay, we were completely shocked. Even now, as this news has brought our friend group back together, I find it hard to believe.
When I heard about the Hike to Defeat ALS, I thought “this is my chance to do something to help.” I hope by hiking, it will inspire others to help too. Even doing something small, like giving up something you can do without (a fancy meal at a restaurant or a few lattes), and instead giving the savings to the Golden West Chapter of The ALS Association can make a difference, if enough of us do it.
As I prepare for my hike in honor of Jay, it's the simple things that become important -- having water, food, and clothing to sustain me on a long hike of several days, and the comfort of knowing I am surrounded by my family and friends to support me. It feels good that as I hike I think of Jay, and feel with hope and love that I am doing something.
As I write this, excuse me if I cry…because although I have often thought about my friends from 5a over the last 40 plus years, the news about Jay's illness -- someone I looked up to as a strong and inspiring man, smart and good to others, always with a smile on his face -- makes me realize we are all vulnerable. It has made me realize how much Jay impacted my life. He was there for me if I needed a friend to talk to, or help keep me focused in school. To me, he has been a protector of others. So now I strive to be, as much as I can, a protector of those suffering from ALS. I am only happy that right now he is still with us, inspiring me to do something good, without conditions.
We can all do something to stop this disease from hurting our friends and loved ones. As I have learned, there are various progressions of the disease -- some slower, some faster -- but all painful and debilitating to everyone affected by it. By raising funds and awareness through our hikes as a community, we are helping to find cures or treatments for ALS.
I hope you will join me and do something good and impactful for the ALS community by sharing your story with others to raise awareness and funds to create a world without this devastating disease.
Team Captain, PCTcalifornia5aUSF