The decision to volunteer is often an intensely personal one. Some decide to volunteer out of a sense of wanting to give back to the community after a long career. Others feel an affinity for an organization’s mission. Still others seek out opportunities that might inspire them creatively or for the opportunity to learn new skills. For some, it is an opportunity to meet new people and make new friends. This list goes on, and at the end of the day there is a story of “why” for every volunteer.
April is National Volunteer Month, a chance for us to say thank you to everyone who chooses to volunteer their time and talents to the cause of serving our ALS community and working towards the goal or creating a world without ALS. Still, for our volunteers and our organization—as for the entire world—the last year has been strange and challenging. The safety protocols the pandemic has required, especially for people with ALS and their families, has limited the volunteer opportunities available. As we all strive to return to something approaching “normal,” we are reminded that the passion of those wanting to help has not lessened, it has merely been directed differently.
Take for example Brad Adams. His connection to ALS and the ALS community is what brought him to consider volunteering with our Chapter.
“My mom was diagnosed with ALS and passed away from it in 2012. She probably had ALS for a long time, but she passed away just a couple months after her diagnosis as she had a very aggressive case,” Brad says. “She moved in with my family before her diagnosis as we were trying to figure out what was causing her health problems. Other family helped too, but she mostly stayed with us. My wife was—and still is!—an angel and did most of the care-taking, as I worked during the day. We were living in the Detroit, Michigan, area at the time, and the ALS Association was a huge blessing to us in providing us with resources and encouragement. We experienced firsthand the stress and loneliness that the patient, and the caregivers, go through. We could not have gotten through it all alone.”
Brad is a pastor, and he and his family relocated to the St. Louis area in 2017. In time, he felt he was ready to find a way to contribute to the ALS community here.
“I don’t really know how to put this to words. I guess the pain of my mother’s passing isn’t as raw anymore,” he says. “I want to help ALS patients and their caregivers because I remember how lonely it can be. I just want to give back in any small way I can.”
Brad’s plans, however, were upended like many in 2020. Just as he was going through the process of preparing to volunteer in-home with a family to provide caregiver relief, the COVID-19 pandemic struck, and the world shut down. Still, Brad and his family found ways to be involved where it was possible. He and his sons volunteered (outdoors, and masked) at the Swing for a Cure golf tournament last August, and last year he got the youth group from his church involved in doing some yard work for an ALS family. And while volunteering in-home with people with ALS and their families isn’t possible quite yet, Brad is looking forward to helping whenever the opportunity presents itself.
“I’m willing to help anyway I can. The events of the past year have not changed my passion or desire to help ALS families,” he says. “I will of course be sensitive to, and adhere to, any health measures necessary to ensure everyone’s safety.”
Brad’s story is unique, as are the stories of all those who volunteer to help us in the fight against ALS. But all our volunteers play a vital part in helping us serve people with ALS in our community. This National Volunteer Month, we want to say thank you for all you do. ALS does not stop, and neither do you.
If you are interested in finding more about volunteering with our Chapter, contact our Community Outreach & Development Coordinator Brittany Hafford at firstname.lastname@example.org or 314-432-7257 ext. 224.