Walk to Defeat ALS this Saturday in Fairview

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A photo from the 2018 Walk to Defeat ALS in Huntsville. It was close to Halloween, so the group dressed Danny Harris up as “Mayhem” from the insurance commercial. (contributed)

CULLMAN, Ala. – Walk to Defeat ALS will take place this Saturday, Oct. 24 at Randall Shedd Community Park in Fairview. The local event is hosted by Fishing 4 A Cure 4 ALS. Team Danny Harris will walk to raise both money and awareness for ALS (Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, also called Lou Gehrig’s disease). Registration will begin at 9:30 a.m. and the walk will begin at 10. The walk will follow all social distancing guidelines and masks should be worn.

In 2011, Danny Harris was diagnosed with ALS, a disease of the nervous system that weakens muscles and severely impacts physical function. It is a progressive neurodegenerative disease for which there is no cure.  

Danny Harris’ wife Diane Harris said, “He was diagnosed on April 28, 2011 so this is actually our 10th year to be a part of the ALS walk. We’ve had pretty large teams for eight of those years. We raise money every year for ALS because we see the needs of the ALS community.”

The ALS Association helps support families like the Harrises.

“They help you get what you need when you need it,” she said. “This disease can be quite rapid, the progression. Danny’s has not been rapid, but he lost his voice real fast. He hasn’t been able to talk in a long time, and now, he’s very weak in the legs.”

Danny Harris is now dependent on a power wheelchair to get around.

Researchers still don’t know the exact cause for ALS, said his wife. “They know a lot more than they used to. They do recognize some markers on a person’s DNA. Danny took part in a research project at HudsonAlpha (in Huntsville). They took blood and ran his complete DNA. He had no markers, none of the known markers for ALS.”

The HudsonAlpha project has been put on hold due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The ALS Association normally has three walks in the state of Alabama each year, but like so many other events, the walks have been canceled or done virtually due to COVID-19.

Diane Harris explained, “We decided to do the walk in Fairview because we are originally from Fairview. We know three people from Fairview who have died from ALS and we want to honor them during our walk.”

Saturday’s walk will be led by Danny Harris.

“The teams we have with our walks are just friendly competition,” said his wife. “The money all goes in the same pot to help people. The ALS Association, they help pay for research, they help pay for patient services and they advocate on the local, state and national level.”

Harris said people don’t always understand what an ALS diagnosis can do to a family. The financial toll can be devastating.

She said, “We’ve been very blessed, and we decided from the very beginning that we could either sit on the couch and feel sorry for ourselves or we could do something. So, we decided we would start trying to raise money for ALS to help people who need it. The ALS Association helps us in so many ways. I can call our clinic director and she will make sure we get what we need. They are so good, and we see what they do, so that’s why we decided to focus our fundraising for the ALS Association.”

Fishing 4 a Cure 4 ALS is a nonprofit which usually hosts a bass tournament to raise money, but it was unable to this year. The walk is the largest opportunity for fundraising this year. Harris invites people to come out and walk. There will be T-shirts, tote bags and other prizes.

“Come out and wear that T-shirt. That raises awareness. That’s a big thing, too,” she said. “The Ice Bucket Challenge, several years ago, raised a lot of awareness and a lot of money. There’s a lot of great research going on. There’s a lot of great clinical trials going on for medication, but right now, there’s only two medications for ALS. Those are just to slow down the progression and not a cure or anything like that.”

To sign up for the walk or to donate, visit http://web.alsa.org/goto/teamdannyharris2020.

Find out more at www.ALS.org

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Christy Perry

christy@cullmantribune.com