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Garry Point Park hosts 2022 ALS walkathon

By Matthew Cheung

Published 12:41 PDT, Wed June 22, 2022

June is ALS Awareness Month, and this year the ALS Society of B.C. hosted its 17th annual Move to Cure ALS event.

With multiple events taking place across the province, Richmond was one of 13 host cities. This was the first in-person walkathon event since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.

ALS stands for Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, and is also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease or motor neuron disease. It is a neurological disease that slowly shuts down the communication between the brain and the muscles. As time goes on, those who live with ALS lose the ability to do everyday tasks like walking and eating, and eventually lose the ability to breathe. 

Most commonly diagnosed in middle to late adulthood, this disease affects not just people who have been diagnosed with ALS but also those around them. 

ALS currently has no cure. Eighty per cent of those diagnosed succumb to the disease within two to five years. Ten per cent might live 10 years or longer, while the other 10 per cent may only live for a few months. 

“The sad reality of it is that as one (person) is diagnosed with the disease, another one passes away, so the number (of people with ALS) remains static,” says Navin Autar, communications and social media coordinator of the ALS Society of B.C. 

Participants registered for the recent event as an individual, group, or company, and pledged the amount of money they wanted to donate. Participants received T-shirts and took on a two-hour walk. 

Donations accumulated from the annual walkathons are used to support programs including patient services, mobile clinics, and research through PROJECT HOPE at the University of British Columbia (UBC).

“The services are available to patients living with ALS in B.C. and Yukon with no charges or fees. The only requirement to access is registration with the ALS Society of B.C.,” says Autar. 

Thanks to contributions from the province, UBC, and other donors, phase one of PROJECT HOPE was achieved by March 2020. The ALS Society of B.C. then moved on to phase two, with a new goal.

“(The next goal is) to raise $20 million to build the team to lead research, clinical trials, and staff at an ALS clinic at UBC,” says Autar.

This goal allows research to continue, as well as creating a new clinic for people diagnosed with ALS. Currently the ALS Society of B.C. has partnered with Vancouver Coastal Health and the ALS Centre at GF Strong Rehabilitation Centre to provide mobile clinics to those who can no longer visit the main ALS centre. 

“(So far) $2.4 million of the $20 million goal has been raised and will be used for PROJECT HOPE research, clinical care, and support,” says Wendy Toyer, executive director of the ALS Society of B.C.

With a donation goal of $135,000, Richmondites supported the local event with their generosity.

“The (Richmond) event was extremely successful,” says Toyer. “We had over 300 people that participated in the event and raised over $105,000, (and) there are still funds coming in.”

Despite the event’s success, Toyer says there is still more to be done.

“People with ALS do not have the luxury of time, and it is my dream that we will be able to have an effective treatment for ALS as fast as the COVID-19 vaccine was developed,” says Toyer.

Although the fundraising event has passed, the society is still welcoming donations. To donate to the Move to Cure ALS fundraising event, or to make a general donation, visit movetocureals.ca.

For more information about ALS Society of British Columbia, visit alsbc.ca. 

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