Over her years as a volunteer with the ALS Association St. Louis Regional Chapter, Diana Wunning has seen—and done—just about everything. She’s been volunteering long enough to remember the days when mailings were all done in-house and by hand. She recalls sorting postal tray after postal tray of envelopes by ZIP code. She recalls VERY early mornings at the Walk to Defeat ALS when she’d be out putting up signs to direct people to the right spot. Pretty much anything that needed to done, Diana has done it some point along the way. In fact, she recalls not just volunteering, but managing other volunteers.
“In the years before we had a volunteer coordinator I’d be there very early and help oversee the volunteers and make sure everyone was where they needed to be day of Walk,” she says. “You name it, I’ve pretty much done it.”
April is Volunteer Appreciation Month, and in honor of so many volunteers who each in their own way help our Chapter do it all for people with ALS in our community, wanted to shine a light on Diana Wunning for her years of service and dedication to a cause near and dear to her heart.
“My sister died of ALS in 1992, and that’s when I first found out about the ALS Association. However, before that of two of my uncles had died of ALS in the 60s,” Diana says. She also had a cousin and an aunt who had ALS but were misdiagnosed with muscular dystrophy and MS in the 1960s.
That should be more than any family should have to bear, but for Diana’s family there was still more to face.
“Then in 2003, my sister’s son, my nephew was diagnosed with ALS so that’s when I did my first Walk in Cape Girardeau. Because the St. Louis Walk conflicted with our family reunion,” she says. “So, that was my first Walk and then I started volunteering because I was retired from teaching at that point. I’ve been at it ever since, and as many of us say—I’m in it for life. We recently lost our 14th family member to ALS.”
With her family having the familial form of ALS, Diana has been involved in ALS research projects for nearly 15 years. Before COVID, she would travel regularly to take part in various tests and studies. Diana has also traveled to Washington to take part in ALS advocacy efforts. And her efforts have not gone unnoticed. Over her years of service she’s received the Lotz Humanitarian Award from the national ALS Association and an award for outstanding efforts in advocacy.
While awards are nice, it is through the day in, day out, often unglamorous work Diana has put in over the years that her impact can truly be measured. As we said, if it needed to be done, Diana has done it for people with ALS. She has also had an influence on the next generation of volunteers in the fight against ALS. When she was just 11, her niece Julia asked if she could help Diana as she volunteered at the ALS Association office. From there Julia went on volunteer with her aunt throughout her teens, and continues to be involved with the ALS Association as a recent graduate of the American University in Washington, DC.
Even while facing some non-ALS related health challenges recently, Diana is planning to be back and ready to help out with this year’s St. Louis Walk to Defeat ALS on June 25. And while arriving before the sun comes up isn’t as appealing to her as it was in the past, she is looking forward to being back in person and seeing many friend and family as they gather together once again in the fight to end ALS.
“I’m 76 so 5:30 a.m. is not an appealing time anymore,” she says. “But I’m happy to be back. I miss it. I miss the people.”
As we recognize Volunteer Appreciation Month we celebrate the efforts of Diana and all our volunteers who give their time and talents without fanfare to help us in our mission. Each and every one of you is making a difference in the lives of people with ALS in our community.
If you are interested in becoming involved with our Chapter as a volunteer, contact Brittany at: firstname.lastname@example.org.