The sixth annual Judy Schweitzer ALS Curl for a Cure Funspiel is just around the corner, set to run Nov. 7th at the Michener Curling Club.
Carrie Mello began the Funspiel in honour of her mother, who passed away from ALS which is described as a progressive neuromuscular disease in which nerve cells die and leave voluntary muscles paralyzed.
Eventually, the individual with ALS is left completely immobilize, with loss of speech and eventually with an inability to swallow or breathe. There is no known cause of cure for this devastating disease.
Mello said her mother was passionate about curling, and a fundraiser for the cause that featured the sport seemed the perfect way to go. Proceeds raised go directly to support the ALS Society of Alberta.
“They were so good to me and my family that we wanted to find a way to give back,” said Mello. “We also thought this would be a good way to get people together and also to try curling if they never have while raising awareness and support for ALS.”
Schweitzer’s battle with ALS lasted about four and one-half years, recalled Mello, adding the fundraising tournament was launched during that time as well.
“She loved it. She was never able to play in it but she came down to the rink and a lot of her friends and family were there. It brought everyone together and just being in the rink made her happy.”
According to the ALS Society of Alberta, ALS can strike anyone.
It most often occurs between the ages of 55 to 65 but can also occur in older and younger adults, and rarely in teenagers. ALS is usually fatal within two to five years of diagnosis.
About 2,500 to 3,000 Canadians are currently living with ALS. In at least 90% of cases, it strikes people with no family history of the disease.
The symptoms and the area of the body first affected can vary from person to person.
Typically ALS involves muscle weakness, fatigue, wasting, stiffness, loss of tone, cramping, twitching, and hyper- and hypo-reflexion. The onset of the disease may occur in nerves associated with muscles of the upper or lower limbs, the throat or upper chest area.
Of course, awareness of ALS reached unprecedented heights with the incredibly popular Ice Bucket Challenge last year, which saw people from all walks of life have an ice-cold bucket of water poured on their heads in a bid to raise funds for ALS research across the globe.
In 2014, more than 260,000 Canadians dumped a bucket of ice over their heads and made a donation through the Ice Bucket Challenge.
“That was awesome – it was good to raise the money but I was also excited about the awareness seeing people do the research into it,” she said. “Many people didn’t really know what it was, so they would go and look into it.
”It would just open conversations,” she said. “So I got to have conversations about it with people who had never ever heard of it – I was really excited about that.”
It’s was also important as knowledge of the disease – formerly called Lou Gehrig’s disease – in general isn’t always very well known. And as generations come and go, fewer people know who Gehrig – the famed baseball play who died of the disease in 1941 – even is.
Meanwhile, according to ALS Society of Canada, it’s a costly disease with direct and indirect costs of more than $250,000 over the course of the illness.
And that’s where the ALS Society of Alberta is also supportive, said Mello. “They were so informative and so helpful. They would say, ‘If you ever have any questions, just call.’ There are so approachable.
“My mom went through three wheelchairs before we found one that worked for her, and it was not an issue for them to track down what we needed,” said Mello, adding that homes have to be fitted on an ongoing with the proper equipment to assist people with ALS through their daily routines. “They helped us out with most of that,” she said. “That’s one of main reasons we wanted to give back because we felt that support.
“My mom would not have had the quality of life at the end that she did (without that support).”
Last year, the organization supported 341 people living with ALS in the province.
Through their equipment loan program, they provided more than 1,754 pieces of equipment across Alberta to help those living with ALS to stay in their own homes as long as possible.
For more information about the Judy Schweitzer ALS Curl for a Cure, call Carrie Mello at 403-877-3860 or email ALScurlforacure@hotmail.ca.
“We are still looking for donations for the raffle draws as well.”
Cash donations for the cause are welcome as well, even if a person can’t participate in the event.