While Cindy Lister wasn’t able to be at her father’s bedside when he died almost three years ago from ALS, she has since poured her heart and soul into helping others affected by the disease.
“What I found so difficult was just watching my dad weaken. Witnessing someone you love lose the ability to speak, to move and to just be themselves,” recalled Lister about those difficult months towards the end. “He just seemed so weak, so vulnerable and there was just nothing we could do.
“So what we’re (ALS Cycle of Hope team) trying to do is make a difference and do something we could not do for the lost ones.”
A large part of that work has involved raising money, and just as important, awareness about the motor neurone condition commonly known as Lou Gehrig’s disease.
That includes the annual ALS Cycle of Hope which left Kamloops this week and will make three stops in the South Okanagan, including one in Penticton Monday from 1 to 2 p.m. at Freedom Cycle.
“Quite a few of our riders have lost family members or loved ones to ALS so we all have a very strong bond and it is part of the healing process,” said Lister. “I think us arriving in town we are a sign of hope for others who have the disease and their families.”
ALS or amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, is characterized by muscle spasticity, progressive weakness, difficulty speaking, swallowing and breathing.
Most people with ALS die of respiratory failure or pneumonia.
Lister and Robin Farrell began the Cycle of Hope in Victoria in 2012 and were part of a team of six cyclists who rode 700 kilometres from Kamloops to Hope. That year they raised $5,000, but the effort has been such a success there are now a dozen cyclists and the 2014 goal is $50,000.
Of that money, $25,000 will go to purchase a wheelchair for use by ALS patients in B.C. to use. The rest of the money will go to ALS Canada for research and other purposes.
The team symbol is the crow which some of the cyclists on the initial ride questioned until Lister explained the significance of her choice.
“When my dad died there was just this crow in the backyard and mom just kept telling me about this crow,” she said. “So somehow, just envisioning my dad not living any more, I pictured this crow and that has been a huge symbol for me and my family.
“Some people said the crow symbolizes death and I told them that ALS is death.”
Fitting, the last leg of the journey is along the Crowsnest Highway.
Anyone wishing to meet the riders and donate can do so at Freedom Cycle or go online at www.cycleofhope.ca.