After watching her father struggle with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, ultimately losing his life to the disease, Cindy Lister felt compelled to do something.
ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease, weakens the muscles of the body, eventually leading to paralysis. Those with later stages of the disease may need a feeding tube, as eating is too difficult. Generally, those who suffer from the disease die from either respiratory failure or pneumonia within five years of the onset of symptoms. One of the most well-known people who have the disease, famed physicist Stephen Hawking, has endured the disease for over 50 years. Currently, there is no cure.
“ALS is not a very popular disease, but when it touches a family, when it strikes you, it strikes you very deeply,” said Lister.
Setting out to bring the disease to the front of more people’s minds, Lister and five friends created the ALS Cycle of Hope, a 10-day event which will see them travel 560 kilometres from Kamloops to Hope to raise awareness for the disease.
The team, in matching purple and white outfits, stopped in Penticton for a hot dog barbecue at Rona, where they met and mingled with members of the community. While the team hopes to raise $5,000 for ALS, the purpose of the ride is to build both awareness and a foundation the group can expand on next year.
“We’re a small team this year but next year it will be a bigger team and the idea is it’s going to be a bigger team raising the awareness, but also having fun along the way in some of these communities because there’s so much to offer,” said Trish Fougner, one of the team members.
In the future, the group will be looking to not only expand the team of cyclists, but to also open up certain segments of the route to those who want to join the cause, allowing people to ride with the cyclists and contributing without having to train for the 560 km distance. Along the way, the team has been stopping at various communities on their route, seeking donations and raising further awareness for their event, as well as ALS in general. These stops, said Lister, are where families coping with ALS come forward and connect with the riders.
“The families we have been encountering are a variety of people who have lost a brother, mother grandfather,” she said. “People that do stop and donate, they have something to share. They want to talk, they need to talk and we’re here to listen.”