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Walk for ALS returns to Fort McMurray

Last Updated Jul 14, 2017 at 5:14 pm MST

The Fort McMurray WALK for ALS will take place thanks to the hard work and dedication of volunteers.

WALK Coordinator, Paul Downey, will host the event on July 16 in Birchwood Trails at 9 a.m. to raise awareness and funds for the ALS Society of Alberta.

“It raises awareness for ALS, a lot of people don’t understand what it is and there are a lot of being affected by it or who had a loved one who has it or passed away from it,” said Downey.

Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) is a rapid, always fatal neurodegenerative disease.

It attacks the nerves of the body that would normally send messages from the brain to the muscle, resulting in weakness and wasting.

Eventually, the individual with ALS is left completely immobilized, with loss of speech and an inability to swallow and breathe.

There is no known cause or cure for this devastating disease.

“I had a friend of my family who passed away from it 10 years ago, so it’s close to my heart,” said Downey.

Downey hopes that the Fort McMurray WALK for ALS will raise more awareness and encourage people to support the ALS society.

This unwavering volunteer support has inspired Wayne MacIntosh, a Fort McMurray resident who is currently living with ALS, to share his story.

In April of 2014, Wayne began experiencing muscle twitches, weakening, weight loss and fatigue.

His doctor at the time was unfamiliar with ALS, driving Wayne to consult with a different doctor, who then referred him to a neurologist.

After several weeks of testing, Wayne’s neurologist concluded that he most likely had ALS, and referred him to the ALS Clinic at the University of Alberta where the diagnosis was confirmed.

At first, Wayne found it shocking to learn that he had acquired a disease with no cure that is typically fatal within three to five years from symptom onset.

Over the next few months, he retired from his job and spent time with friends and family across Canada and in the United States.

“The love of my friends and family and the hope for a cure for this terrible disease is the fuel that provides me with the inspiration to be thankful for the life I’ve lived, and make the best of each and every day I have left,” Wayne said. “The WALKs for ALS are extremely important in raising awareness of this disease, and help fund research that will one day find a cure.”

Wayne hopes that his willingness to share his story will inspire Fort McMurray residents to participate in the WALK, and channel hope for a future without this devastating disease.

Registration for the Fort McMurray WALK for ALS can be done online.