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City of Knoxville’s Safety City is Named Site of Fourth Annual Knoxville Walk to Defeat ALS

Tuesday, August 6th, 2013 | Uncategorized | No Comments

Lou Gehrig’s Disease East Tennesseans are getting on board for Sept. 14 event
ALS WalkBy Renee Anderson, Steering Committee Member

East Tennesseans who are coping with ALS and their supporters, friends, and families have an opportunity to strike a blow against the terminal neuromuscular disease, commonly known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease. Individuals and teams are encouraged to sign up now for the Fourth Annual Knoxville Walk to Defeat ALS, which will be held Saturday morning, September 14, at the City of Knoxville’s Safety City, 165 South Concord Street.

During the past three years since the Knoxville Walk was founded, persons with ALS and their supporters rally together to generate a resounding battle cry against the disease that has forever changed life. Walkers can choose to walk in memory of a loved one whose life has been snuffed out by ALS. Since 2010, when a grassroots effort on the part of a few individuals sparked the first Walk in coordination with the Tennessee Chapter of the ALS Association (Nashville), more than $300,000 has been generated to directly help Tennessee families dealing with ALS with advocacy programs, medical equipment, and the like. About 20% of the tax-deductible donations go to the ALS national headquarters to support its aggressive research program and awareness campaign. The ALS Association and its state chapters are 501(c)(3) tax-exempt; therefore, all donations are tax-deductible.

Several Knoxvillians serving on the 2013 Walk’s steering committee suffer with ALS themselves. Some of them are participating in national medical research projects to find a treatment that will prolong and offer an improved quality of life. Even as the number of supporters and donations grow from year to year, more Tennesseans and people across the nation are being diagnosed. In fact, every 90 minutes, someone loses his/her life, and every 90 minutes, there is a new diagnosis. From diagnosis, the usual life expectancy is still only two to five years.

That is why the Knoxville Walk at Safety City on September 14 is a torch of encouragement and real support for the cause of finding a cure and helping fellow Tennesseans with the disease. Individuals may create teams in support or in memory of someone with ALS by visiting www.alstn.org or by calling 1-877-216-5551. To register online, go to the website and click on the Knoxville Walk. Then either select the icon “Start a Team” or “Join a Team” and follow the prompts to complete registration. The Walk’s steering committee, which meets at the home of Chris and Carianne Meystrik, who are leading the charge against ALS (Carianne has lived with the disease for more than a decade), expect more than 50 teams to Walk to Defeat ALS on Sept. 14.

Monika Hancock, Tennessee Chapter’s Development Specialist, is available to answer any questions and help teams get registered. At the recent Knoxville Walk’s Kickoff Luncheon attended by ALS teams that had pre-registered, Ms. Hancock indicated her hope to have walkers from all the communities surrounding Knoxville, such as Athens, Oak Ridge, Clinton, Maryville, Loudon, Lenoir City, Farragut, Sevierville, and beyond.

“The more we are able to stir awareness about this mysterious and despicable disease, the more people we can help and the closer we can come toward identifying effective treatments and a cure,” she said at the luncheon. “I hope everyone will get excited about this year’s Walk by making a donation, joining an existent team, and/or starting a new team. Teams can be named in honor or in memory of a loved one, work associate, or acquaintance who has battled ALS. We hope to have a great demonstration of support on September 14 at Safety City that demonstrates our commitment to raise awareness and funds for those with ALS in East Tennessee and to help discover treatments and a cure.”

Registration for the Walk will begin at 9 a.m., with plenty of entertainment for the family. The Walk, which begins at 10 a.m., will be wheelchair accessible, so all may participate. Safety City, a community service project of the Knoxville Police Department, is easily accessed. From I-40, exit at 386A toward Middlebrook Ave/University Ave. Merge onto 24th Street NW and Sutherland Avenue. Turn left on Concord Street, and follow the red and white signs one-tenth of a mile to the Walk site. Sponsored by B97.5 Radio and other caring commercial patrons, a festive event is planned, with complimentary breakfast items and coffee, UT and youth cheerleading squads, clowns, balloons, and music galore. T-shirts will be awarded to individuals who raise $100 or more.

The Knoxville Walk’s goal is $130,000. At this writing, the team Bulldogs for Bayard (Bayard Erskine of Knoxville) is in first place, having already donated $6,450 toward the total. Mike’s Angels, who will be walking in memory of Mike Braden of Oak Ridge, has raised $1,810 so far, but Sheila Braden vows there is more coming. “Bring it on,” she said of the friendly competition between teams. “This is just the beginning!”

At the Walk’s Kickoff Luncheon, held at Rothschild’s Catering in Knoxville July 16, Chris Meystrik of Jewelry Television spoke for his wife, Carianne, who had composed an account of their journey with ALS. The Meystrik’s love, courage, and good humor, along with the support of their four children, has been an inspiration to all who know them. Moreover, the Meystrik family is leading the charge this year for the Walk to Defeat ALS in Knoxville – to help other families with this devastating disease.

Bayard Erskine of Knoxville spoke of his personal battle with ALS at the Kickoff Luncheon. His team, known as Bulldogs for Bayard, leads the donations totals thus far as they gather steam and team spirit for Walk Day. He said that until he learned about the Walk and the local support group that has been started as a result, he and his wife felt isolated and disconnected. “It is very important to find each individual in East Tennessee who is battling ALS and connect them with the Walk and its sources of support,” he said. He expressed gratitude for the visits he had received from Jane Leuthke, the Tennessee Chapter’s RN, who had provided guidance and assistance in accessing services and support.

Mr. Erskine praised the Knoxville ALS support group that connected him and his wife, Kathy, to other families struggling with the disease. “I have a really cool power chair and a van that were donated to me by the grieving families of ALS victims who had lost their battles,” he said. “I met new friends who are becoming like family members at the support group meetings. You’d be surprised how much we laugh together. It’s important to keep living and enjoying life to the max. Also, when you meet up with a person like me, remember to greet the caregiver. In my case, that’s my wife, Kathy. Hey, I’m the one who gets to ride around in a whiz-bang power chair. She’s the one doing all the hard work for me – always with a smile.”

This fall, the non-profit ALS Association’s Tennessee Chapter will also host Walks in Memphis, Nashville, and the Tri-Cities (Kingsport). For more information, contact Monika Hancock, Development Specialist, at (865) 936-3296 or monika.hancock@alstn.org.

Photo: Kathy Erskine and her husband, Bayard, who battles Lou Gehrig’s Disease, leaders of the Knoxville Walk Team, Bulldogs for Bayard, who have raised $6,450 so far toward the Knoxville Walk goal of $130,000.

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