Emden ALS Awareness and Fundraisers Saturday
5K to go out with a bang

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[August 16, 2019]   On Saturday, August 17, the Eighth Annual ALS Awareness 5K will take place. Starting right outside of the Stag R Inn in Emden at 8:30 a.m. and winding around the countryside, the race will then end back on Main Street in front of the Stag R Inn.

It will be the final year for this event, which over the last seven years has raised over $150,000. Lori Lessen, one the event’s organizers, said the money has been donated to ALS Worldwide and the Les Turner Foundation, who have been leaders in the fight to create awareness and find a cure for ALS.

Lori Lessen shared the history of the event and how it began. Lessen said, “After talking with my family, Julie Schleder and Betty Jo Lessen, we decided to organize an event in the Emden community to raise awareness of ALS - Lou Gehrig’s disease, which is a terrible disease that my father-in-law Alan Lessen, and Julie’s mom Donna Naffziger, had died from.”

In 2012, when the event began a young mother, Michelle Conrady Brown, had recently passed from this horrific disease. So her mother Boo Hanner and Ashley Aper had also joined the three other ladies in organizing the event.

Over the past seven years of the ALS Awareness 5k, six individuals with ties to the Emden community lost their lives to this terrible disease. Lori said, “They were more than just six people - they were a husband, wife, daughter, grandpa, mother, father, brother, sister, neighbor, and friend to all the people they left behind.” And while there were three local individuals that inspired this run/walk, they are just six of 5,600 people in the United States that are diagnosed with this deadly disease every year.

There are several good memories of the event over the years. For example, the first year of the race, Lori said, “I told the girls if we have at least 50 people participate that will be great. Well we had over 150 participate the first year and it has grown every year since then.”

Another memory is from the year of the “Ice Bucket Challenge,” which Lori said was “amazing.” The amount of people that joined in the challenge locally and nationwide made a huge impact on the Awareness of ALS.

Lessen said, “I truly feel that more people today are aware of this horrific disease and what it does to the individual and their families. While there is no cure for ALS, there has been significant progress towards a cure in recent years.

Lessen said, “The support that we get from the community is amazing to us. It takes so many people to make this event what it is today. We could not have been so successful without all the help of many volunteers, sponsors, people who donate, the participants. There is an endless list of those we want to thank.”

Stephen and Barbara Byer, who started ALS Worldwide in 2008 after losing their son to ALS, have also been there to lend support. Lori said, “We appreciate the Byers of ALS Worldwide attending several of our events and sharing what this community has done for the ALS community.”

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The support the organizers have received from family members who have lost their loved ones to ALS has been incredible. Michelle Conrady Brown family, Punk O'Donoghue family, Dale Olson family and most recently John Hayes family and friends. Each of these families along with our own family and friends have been such an inspiration and have given us the support we needed over the years.

So many people have shared stories over the years about how ALS has affected their lives and Lori said some are still fighting the fight.

In 2017, Emden lost a dear friend and community member, John Hayes, to ALS. John had always been a supporter of the ALS event in Emden, and in 2016 John was diagnosed with ALS and was able to attend the 2017 event. He made sure every family member and friend attended that event. Lori said “John faced ALS with such courage, strength and faith. He was such an inspiration to all of us who knew him and to those he had just met.” Sadly, John died in December of 2017.

Lori said when they decided this year would be the last one for the event, “it was a very hard decision for all of us. We have surpassed any goals we had in mind, we have raised awareness of ALS, raised thousands of dollars for research, made some wonderful friends, so we decided let's go out with a bang! This may be our last event, but we will continue to support and help in the fight for a cure of ALS.”

New this year is a 400-meter dash Kids Fun Run that will start at 8 a.m. for those zero to five, and also six to nine years old. The cost is $10.00. At 8:30 am, the 5k will begin. Following the race will be a raffle drawing and Silent Auction starting at 10:30 a.m., music by Double Shot Duo starting at 11:30 a.m. and a Bags Tournament starting at 2 p.m.

Come on out and support this good cause Saturday.

To find out more information or to register, visit the web page alsawareness5k.com

[Angela Reiners]


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