Vernon’s Murray Vatamaniuck (seated), a former conservation officer, raised money and awareness for ALS, or Lou Gehrig’s Disease, after his own diagnosis. Vatamaniuck died of the disease July 23. (ALS Society of BC - photo)

Vernon ALS champion dies

Murray Vatamaniuck raised thousands of dollars, along with awareness, after diagnosis

The disease he championed, and raised money and awareness for, ultimately took his life.

Murray Vatamaniuck, a former Vernon conservation officer, died July 23 from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, ALS, or Lou Gehrig’s Disease. He was 73.

Earlier this year, Vatamaniuck was named the 2019 recipient of the ALS Society of BC Exceptional Public Awareness Program Award. He was featured in the ALS BC Giving Tuesday direct response campaign, provided quotes in the 2019 Bob Heinrich art calendar and supports the PGA of BC Golfathon for ALS at Spallumcheen Golf and Country Club. Vatamaniuck was also a participant in the Annual Vernon Walk to End ALS, which takes place in June.

READ MORE: Vernon man honoured with ALS Exceptional Public Awareness Program Award

READ MORE: ALS reality revealed by Vernon man

“During my participation in the Vernon Walk, I was blown away with all the generous people who attended, and also with the amount of new friends I made,” said Vatamaniuck in an interview in April with The Morning Star. “I have found going to the ALS Support Group meetings in Kelowna very helpful. When I was first diagnosed, I was attending for three years, until it became harder to get around.

“The meetings were very helpful and I got to see the differences and similarities that we all go through when someone is living with ALS.”

ALS is a disease of the nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord that control voluntary muscle movement. After retiriing from the conservation service, Vatamaniuck enjoyed walking and hiking, but noticed his legs starting to give out on hime. He attributed it to old age.

Vatamaniuck lived with the symptoms for about a year until he was diagnosed with ALS. He then became a champion for the disease, taking part in the annual walk and raising funds, including more than $3,100 in one particular year.

“Murray, from the time of his diagnosis with ALS, stepped forward to increase awareness about ALS,” said Wendy Toyer, executive director of the ALS Society of BC, who named Vatamaniuck the 2019 winner of the exceptional public awareness program award.

“He supported many fundraisers such as the PGA of BC Golfathon for ALS at Spallumcheen Golf and Country Club and the Vernon Walk to End ALS. When he was still able, he and his wife Cathy attended the Kelowna Living with ALS Support Group. He will be missed by all who knew him.”

A Celebration of Life for Vatamaniuck has been slated for Friday, Sept. 6, at 2 p.m. at the Schubert Centre.

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