Walking Together: Walk to Defeat ALS Committee Members Walk for Many Reasons

As the days grow longer and warmer, we in the Midwest turn out thoughts to summer. And with summer comes the ALS Association St. Louis Regional Chapter Walks to Defeat ALS®. The Springfield, Illinois, Walk is June 15 in in Southwind Park. The St. Louis Walk is June 22 in Forest Park.

These walks would be not be possible without the work of the Walk Committees. Committee members are involved as participants and behind the scenes, playing an integral role in the success of the events. The committees assist in booking vendors, securing in-kind donations, supporting team captains, recruiting volunteers and assisting with the planning of the events.

Each member has their own reason for joining a committee and why the walk. Some of our current Walk to Defeat ALS Committee Members shared theirs with us:

SCOTT LINIGER (St. Louis Walk Committee)

How long have you been on the Walk committee?

2009, I think.

Why did you join?

To honor Tammy Hardy, my partner, who lost her battle with ALS in November 2008.

What does it mean to you to be part of the Walk?

It means that there’s hope for arresting and curing this horrible disease. It means carrying on Tam’s legacy, and it means remembering and honoring her.

NATALIE AKINS (St. Louis Walk Committee)

Natalie Akins and Family

I lost my dad to ALS in 2015. After going through that experience, I knew I had to do something to help other families so I decided to join the walk committee three years ago. It takes a village for a family to get through an ALS diagnosis. That’s why I love the walk. There is a great feeling of solidarity between all of us. I want everyone going through the ALS experience to know your family is not alone. I’m here for you, the committee is here for you, the ALS Association is here for you, and everyone at the walk is here for you. After all, it takes a village.

MOLLY CRUITT (St. Louis Walk Committee)

This is my second year on the Walk committee and my first time being able to really immerse myself in the work of the team. I’m excited to see what we can do together!

I joined the Walk committee because I want to give back to the incredible community that the Walk to Defeat ALS has given me. Since my grandma died from ALS eight years ago, my family has attended walks throughout the country in her memory. Everywhere we go we’re welcomed in and feel like we’re surrounded by a family who really understands what we’ve been through. I’m thrilled to have the opportunity to walk with others, wherever they may be on their journey, to work toward defeating ALS once and for all.

To me, being part of the walk means finding a community of people with whom I’m connected deeply, whether we’ve met before or whether we will meet again. The Walk to Defeat ALS is an inspiring and beautiful gathering that gives me strength and courage. Being part of this team means that even on those days I feel like I’m walking against ALS by myself, I know I’m never truly alone.

KAREN POPE (Springfield Walk Committee)

Karen Pope (left)

I have been on the walk committee for at least 12 years. It is just my way to help honor my mom who passed away of ALS in 1994. I know our team isn’t capable of raising as much in donation money as some teams, so the time I help organizing the walk is my way of raising awareness of the disease and the hope of helping others afflicted with ALS. 

TINA McRAE (Springfield Walk Committee)

Tina McRae and Walk Team

I have been a member of the Walk to Defeat ALS for four years now and on the Springfield committee for the last two years. I walk in honor of my sister, Kathy Willcut, who lost her four-year battle with ALS on September 15, 2018. Kathy was a wonderful sister, devoted wife, step-mom, daughter, and friend. She was full of life when ALS struck, and she fought this disease with grace and dignity showing all of us how to live and how to die. She also confirmed my belief that all life is precious and meaningful. Kathy never lost hope throughout her battle with ALS, and neither will I. I started my walk team to try to find a cure that would spare my sister from this disease. I now walk to make sure that no one else has to lose a person that they love because of an ALS diagnosis.

I formed our team, “Willcut” Out ALS, to support fundraising efforts after seeing the Ice Bucket Challenge. Kathy loved the idea of having a way of getting the word out about ALS. She, like many of us, had only known two people who ever had ALS…Lou Gehrig and Morrie Schwartz. We learned very fast how many people suffer from this disease and how many more are affected through an ALS diagnosis. Kathy enjoyed watching her family and friends take on the Ice Bucket Challenge and would laugh and smile watching the creative ways that the people in her life showed their love for her by taking on the challenge.

This will be the first year that I walk in memory of my dear sister. It will be tough to see her sign posted along the walk change from “in honor of” to “in memory of”. I will use this change as a battle cry, and not a sign of a battle lost. I will walk this year, and every year that I am able, to honor the fallen, to raise awareness, raise funds to help others, and to remember the strongest person that I have ever known, my sister, Kathy “Wiener” Willcut.

MATT HULL (Springfield Walk Committee)

Matt Hull and Walk Team

This is my second year on the walk committee. I have participated as a leader for my team in the walk for the last 15 years, since my father was diagnosed back in 2003. As the years went by, after his passing in 2005, I stayed engaged with the walk and knew at some point I wanted to become more involved with the organization in any way I could. I learned more about the walk committee the last few years, and I knew I could help bring some resources through my personal relationships and local connections, so it was a quick move into the walk committee last year.

I have such pride in being a small part of the ALS Associations fight to end ALS. The love, care, and resources the ALS Association provided over 15 years ago to me and my family is something I want to help flourish for all families who face this horrible disease in central Illinois. If my involvement helps aide the team who can foster that care for others in the community, I am achieving the goals I have for my engagement with the Walk.

SUE DAVSKO (Springfield Walk Committee)

My first walk was the 2011 walk. It was at Washington Park. My husband, John, was diagnosed in August of 2010. We joined because a friend of mine told me about the Walk and how could I not walk? John was there at that first walk. He didn’t make it to the June 2012 Walk because he passed away April 6, 2012, one year and eight months after his diagnosis.

I and my family and friends continue to walk in his honor, and to continue to raise awareness. I feel that we need to keep going to raise money so that one day there will be a cure. My hope is to one day walk with people who are carrying signs and have t-shirts on that say “I’m an ALS Survivor!”

Thank you to all our committee members and to everyone who walks. If have not yet registered to join us in Springfield or St. Louis, visit www.WalkToDefeatALS.org.

The St. Louis Walk to Defeat ALS® is presented by: Dowd Bennett LLP. Springfield Walk to Defeat ALS®  is presented by: The Jane and Mark Calmes Family.

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