For a while, four different Valencia student-athletes were feeling fairly isolated in their experiences with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS).
“I thought I was the only person affected by it, but there were three more people,” said Ryan Kysar, a junior on the Valencia baseball team. “At first I thought this was the rarest thing.”
In addition to Kysar, softball players Kylie and Kiera Alonso and Sofia Trujillo have also had a loved one affected by the disease. This week, the Vikings baseball and softball teams are uniting to raise awareness for ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease.
Trujillo lost a great-grandmother to ALS several years ago and Kylie and Kiera’s grandmother died of the disease shortly before the two sisters were born. Kylie and Kiera’s grandfather, who cared for their grandmother while she was ill, died a few months ago.
The sisters’ grandfather became an avid supporter of raising awareness for ALS, so Kylie and Kiera feel as though they are continuing what he started.
“I think that was what my grandpa would have wanted and I think it’s a really great opportunity to raise awareness and a good opportunity for people to donate and just raise money for research,” Kylie, a senior, said.
All proceeds from the snack stands at Valencia baseball and softball games go towards the Jack Beckwith Memorial Fund to raise awareness for ALS.
Fans are encouraged to wear red to Tuesday’s varsity softball game against Golden Valley, Thursday’s JV softball game against Canyon and Wednesday’s baseball game against St. Bonaventure. The softball team will also be wearing red ribbons to show support.
“It was kind of cool,” Kiera added. “I thought it was very thoughtful of them to think of doing something like that in memory of my grandpa and grandma.”
ALS causes motor neurons within the body to deteriorate, which leads to a lack of muscle control. It can lead to the loss of ability to speak, eat and breathe and there is no known cure.
The ALS Association estimates that over 20,000 Americans have the disease at any time and people between the ages of 40 and 70 are most likely to develop ALS. Kysar’s father was 48 when he died of the disease in mid-January.
“Two years ago in the winter he was diagnosed and ever since then we had to live the life knowing that there is no cure and how we had to just hope for the best and live every day,” Kysar said. “Every day got worse and worse for us and eventually we had to get a caretaker for my dad … it really affected my whole family throughout.”
Those who cannot attend a game this week can donate by following the link on the valenciasoftball.com home page.
“Not a lot of people know about it, but it’s not just another disease where people want money for it,” Kysar said. “This has affected so many families in Valencia so far and it’s one community and we help each other out.”