I am thrilled to be partnering with the Iowa Delta chapter of Phi Delta Theta at Drake University! Phi Delta Theta is a social fraternity that has a wonderful relationship with the ALS Association in honor of former member Lou Gehrig. Our first major event, ‘Sarah’s Mission: Phi’s for pALS’, is scheduled for March 28th. We will be collecting fabric from local businesses and creating small, cozy blankets as a group. We will then be distributing them to people with ALS in Iowa. I have had this idea since August of 2014 and I am extremely excited to finally see it unfold! In order to prepare the chapter for this event, I spoke at a colony meeting on February 22nd about ALS and my mission to end the disease.
Colony meetings are when the chapter gets together at the beginning of every week to discuss important material. I felt super awkward standing on the stage in Sussman Theater, so I sat on a stool in front of the audience, something I have never done before. The first part of my talk covered my mission to end ALS/MND. I spoke about how I was inspired by Dr. McLaren’s courageous battle with the disease that began in late 2010 and the things I have done since then. The second part of my talk covered ALS/MND. I gave a basic overview of the disease so I would not confuse anyone. For example, motor neurons in the body are responsible for voluntary muscle movement. In ALS/MND, these motor neurons degenerate and the ability to initiate and control voluntary muscle movement is lost. I also spoke about Steve Gleason, the ALS registry and the hope in research being conducted around the world. I stressed that ALS research and fundraising are very important, but so are the individuals and families fighting the disease. We do not have to have thousands of dollars or conduct research to help people with ALS in Iowa. A small action like making a blanket for a pALS will bring a smile to their face and keep them toasty! Small things in the community can make a bigger impact than any amount of money.
I will admit, I was a bit afraid to do this talk. What if something went wrong? What if I forgot everything as soon as I got on stage? I was so tempted to tell the chapter I could not speak this week – I would just do it next Sunday! But I decided against it. Activities like this bring me out of my comfort zone and although they terrify me, they help me grow as a person. The more afraid I am of something, the more I tell myself I need to do it. I do not want to look back and regret my decisions to not do some ALS stuff because I was too afraid!
By the way, I am working on a research grant for my neuroscience research methods class. What am I focusing on? ALS, of course! I will be writing about the C9orf72 gene, but I am constantly shaping my research question. So exciting! I know this will prepare me for a career as an ALS researcher. I see a lot of ALS research grants in my future…….