June is ALS Awareness Month.
According to the ALS Society of Canada, Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (also known as ALS, Lou Gehrig’s disease, or motor neuron disease) is a disease that gradually paralyzes people because the brain is no longer able to communicate with the muscles of the body that we are typically able to move at will.
Over time, as the muscles of the body break down, someone living with ALS will lose the ability to walk, talk, eat, swallow and eventually breathe.
Altario School and community suffered a great loss last November when 47-year-old Altario School librarian and educational assistant Kari Evans passed away from this disease.
Her memory has been highlighted this last week in the community as the school and surrounding area has been raising funds for research and awareness.
“She was one of the most kind people you’ll ever meet,” shared Principal Kevin Van Lagen.
“If you had a problem with Kari then you were the problem I’ll tell you right now. That is the word for her was kind. Here at school, she really fulfilled that role as mentor and someone to go to for comfort but would also have a way of kicking kids in the butt helping them go ahead.
“She had that perfect combination of who she was. She was always willing to do anything whenever needed. Whatever was needed to be done she did it.
“Losing her definitely had an impact on the students and staff and our community – very very significantly and this is why it is such a dedication to be doing something for the ALS cause.”
In total, approximately $9,000 has been raised within the school, $2,500 over the $7,500 bar set.
Van Lagen bet with the students they couldn’t reach $7,500 but if they did he would dye his beard purple to continue raising awareness.
“It’s not going to stay for long and it’s definitely not my favourite look but the kids – they deserved it and when you put it out there they earned it. They had a good laugh.
“I hope it catches on where more people do something like this. Maybe it will help with more fundraising efforts amongst communities,” said Van Lagen.
The school even had a ‘dye party’ where some students got strips of hair dyed purple as well.
$25,000+ has been raised by the community as well, bringing the total from both sources to roughly $35,000 and climbing.
Aside from colouring sidewalks purple, dying hair purple and raising money, students and staff and community members took part in a walk called ‘Walk With Kari To End ALS’ on June 11 – 12.
The group took to Evans’ old route as one of her favourite passions was long-distance running.
Through this passion was how she found out she had ALS as mobility became difficult over time.