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