The ALS walk kicked off this morning in Polson Park. Many braved the rain to attend. Far right: Steve Wells, the longest surviving person with ALS (Photo: Brieanna Charlebois, Morning Star)

Vernon ALS Walk a success

Among the attendees was Steve Wells, the longest living person with ALS.

A sea of purple took over Polson park Saturday for the 8th Annual ALS walk in Vernon.

Despite the rain, volunteers, families and friends gathered in Polson Park, where $25,000 was raised along with awareness for people living with ALS, Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis. These walks were the ALS nationwide signature event to raise awareness and funds for patient services and ALS research.

“Today we’re walking for research, we’re walking to support people with ALS and we’re walking for the day when ALS is eradicated from the face of the earth,” said Wendy Toyer, Executive Director of the ALS Society of BC.

There are 15 walks happening this year across the province. The Vernon walk took place Saturday morning at Polson Park. It began with a series of powerful speeches given from Toyer, Vernon Mayor Akbal Mund and and two Vernon locals, Murray Vatamaniuck and Bernie Jaeger, who suffer from ALS.

After the speeches, volunteers took to the stage to lead in a fun dance warm-up. A photo-op followed and then the walk began with a Fire Department send off.

“The hard work of our volunteers and staff at ALS BC, along with the funds raised from the Walks help to support people with ALS in BC tremendously,” said Toyer. “Through their efforts, we are able to provide crucial medical equipment, support and other services for people affected by this disease.”

Following the walk, the fun continued with a silent auction, cake walk, a 50/50 draw and a barbecue.

In attendance was Steve Wells. Wells recently became the longest surviving person with ALS on March 14, the day Stephen Hawking died. The Torontonian has embarked on a coast-to-coast campaign to participate in ALS walks all across the country. His journey began Saturday in Vernon.

Related: Longest surviving person with ALS in Vernon walk

Proceeds from the WALK for ALS go to the ALS Society of BC to provide support services for people living with ALS in BC, and to the Canadian ALS Research program to strive toward a world without ALS.

Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) is a rapidly progressive, neuromuscular disease. It attacks the motor neurons that transmit electrical impulses from the brain to the voluntary muscles in the body. When they fail to receive messages, the muscles lose strength, atrophy and die. ALS can strike anyone at any time, regardless of age, gender, or ethnic origin. It does not affect the senses, and only rarely does it affect the mind.

“I just want everyone to know that living with ALS isn’t that bad when you’ve got a tight crowd around you,” said Bernie Jaeger, who suffers from ALS. “So it’s really appreciated that people came out today.”

The ALS Society of BC raises funds for research, and to provide direct support to ALS patients, and their families and caregivers. Until a cure is found, the Society provides patient services to improve the quality of life of those diagnosed with this disease by offering an extensive equipment loan program, support groups, and educational materials.

The event raised $25,321 for the ALS society thus far.

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Murray Vatamaniuck (right) and Bernie Jaeger (left) both suffer from ALS and gave powerful speeches before Saturday’s ALS Walk at Polson Park. (Brieanna Charlebois/Morning Star)

Wendy Toyer, Executive Director of the ALS Society of BC, thanks the crowd for braving the rain and coming to the event. This is one of 15 walks taking place around the province. (Photo: Brieanna Charlebois, Morning Star)

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