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Annual fundraising walk for ALS in jeopardy

The ALS Society of B.C. is calling for a volunteer to step up and save one of its longest standing mid-island campaigns.

The north central Island Walk for ALS is in jeopardy this year with no coordinator to head up the annual event.

The organization has been running its signature walk fundraiser for close to a decade to generate dollars for ALS research and support those grappling with the incurable and fatal neuromuscular disease.

Last year the event raised more than $30,000 for the cause, helping to connect more than 400 B.C. residents and 30 people in north central Vancouver Island with free counseling, mobile clinics and equipment rentals like power wheelchairs and hospital beds.

It would be a real shame to lose momentum on the event now, says Wendy Toyer, executive director of the ALS Society of B.C., who adds the organization needs to find a volunteer before training begins in late-January.

“If we don’t identify a coordinator extremely soon ... there will not be a walk [for the mid-Island] this year,” she said. “That has never happened in B.C. We have never lost a walk.”

The event has been held since 2005 in Parksville, the home of the society’s 100-year-old founder Kate Hall.

It is an important event, said Serge Vaillancourt, a participant and champion of the walk.

“It gives a number of people with ALS hope and an opportunity to participate in something and raise funds to provide research and support,” he said.

Vaillancourt, a 65-year-old Nanaimo resident and longtime organ donor advocate, was diagnosed with ALS two years ago. The progressive disease has attacked the motor neurons transmitting electrical impulses from his brain to the muscles in his body,  making it difficult to do everyday tasks like lifting his arms over his head to get dressed, or closing his fingers around the zipper of a binder.

He is taking each day as it comes and hopes for a cure, but he said he appreciates the support the ALS society has given him and his family.

There is a sense of comfort in knowing they will provide free counseling to his wife and equipment rentals so they don’t have to worry about finances. He doesn’t want to see the walk cancelled – not only for his own benefit, but to ensure others receive the same support.

Those interested in becoming a walk coordinator for the Walk for ALS can contact Susan Hampton at 1-800-708-3228.

A coordinator would work a minimum 40 hours over the next six months by helping to organize the event, solicit support and bring community groups together.

The volunteer would choose the event date and location of the walk, which can be hosted in any community from Port Hardy to Mill Bay.

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