The Chicago Walk to Defeat ALS is the biggest event of the year for the ALS Association Greater Chicago Chapter. It was recently held on May 31st at Cantigny Park in Wheaton, Illinois. The Chicago Walk to Defeat ALS is held on a Saturday every May (quite appropriate considering May is ALS Awareness month). A plethora of teams are created beforehand in support of loved ones fighting ALS or who have lost their battle. Others who simply want to help defeat the disease register individually and everyone fundraises all year until the day of the walk. Members of the Chicago ALS Association feverishly prepare all year for the event by registering teams and individual walkers, calculating money raised, recruiting volunteers, promoting the event, securing food and venue, and more! When walk day arrives, a few thousand people gather at Cantigny Park – a large and beautiful venue located in a suburb of Chicago. Walkers and volunteers cover the main area of the park along with tents of food, sponsors, music, and more. Teams and other walkers journey a few miles around the park for the “official” walk and afterwards, everyone comes together to enjoy food and music. There are even bounce houses and fun games for the children! Cantigny Park is absolutely beautiful on the day of the Chicago Walk to Defeat ALS.
The Chicago Walk to Defeat ALS is something I look forward to every year. I love this event because it gives so much hope to the ALS community and shows each ALS fighter they are not alone. I feel blessed being able to take part in these wonderful walks. Since this was my 5th Walk to Defeat ALS, my volunteering position was moved up to the host of the VIP tent. The VIP tent is the tent for the team that raised the most money for the walk. This year it was Brucester’s Brewsters which raised more than $30,000 as a team! INCREDIBLE. My job was to make sure everything went smoothly for the team, pass out Walk t-shirts to each member, and make sure no one else stole any of their goodies or took over the tent. It was wonderful meeting each member of the team, especially the team captain who is courageously battling ALS.
The tent I was in charge of was the very first tent next to the starting line As the official walk started to kick off, I stood outside my tent while hundreds of walkers strolled past me, excited to do their part in defeating this disease. It was a wonderful view – all I could see before me were people with costumes, bright and decorative t-shirts, or colorful signs in support of their loved one fighting ALS. It felt incredible to see so many others who, like me, were angry at this disease. Seeing this large number of people taking over the park made me wonder how much money we had raised, but I did not have to wonder this for long as the team fundraising totals were announced after lunch. As the members of the Chicago ALS Association gathered on the stage and released the final numbers, I felt so much hope and pride for my home state. The top team (Brucester’s Brewsters) was well over $30,000 and the rest of the teams were not too far behind! It was great to see the people of Illinois coming together to end ALS. When the top team was announced, two of their team members ran across the park with a giant team banner to the applause and cheers of the other teams. I grinned and cheered them on myself and kept doing so as the total amount raised for the 2014 Chicago Walk to Defeat ALS was announced – $567,000!
Overall, the day was perfect. As a veteran of the Chicago ALS Walks, I am confident in saying it was the best Walk to Defeat ALS the Chicago ALS Association has ever held. Several fundraising records were broken, the weather was absolutely gorgeous, and there were a few thousand attendees. I was lucky enough to reconnect with several individuals that are currently battling ALS and even made some new friends! One of the most wonderful things about my ALS work is I get to meet so many incredible people from across the country and around the world – people from all walks of life I would never otherwise get to meet. Fighting ALS is something that brings us all together. Most of us have witnessed the devastation caused by ALS and would like to put an end to the pain and suffering. Whether it is a friend or a relative, we have all been there and share the same dream – a cure for this wretched disease. There are many times when my ALS work never feels like it will make a difference and I cannot find the mental strength to continue. It is events like the Chicago Walk to Defeat ALS that show me even if I feel this way, I have to keep fighting – there are so many people that desperately need my help . Every walker, whether they are fighting ALS or not, inspires me so much and pushes me to keep moving forward and staying positive. I know I can educate hundreds of more people across Illinois during the next year so that the Chicago Walk to Defeat ALS 2015 will have more walkers and higher fundraising totals. I have great hope that the walk next year will be even better!