3rd annual ALS benefit will honor Victoria man who died
Feb. 28, 2012 at 5 p.m.
Updated Feb. 27, 2012 at 8:28 p.m.
Unsuspecting picnickers beware: A gray-haired man in a souped-up wheelchair will be blazing through Riverside Park on Sunday.
At least that's what Bill Hassel, creator of the Stroll, Roll 'n' Run 5-kilometer race, would have you believe.
Hassel said he's prepared for victory Sunday at the third annual event, which in the past two years has raised $43,000 for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or ALS, research.
This year's event will be in honor of Craig Fox - the father, son, brother, boyfriend, friend and ALS advocate - who died in August after living four years with the disease.
"I look forward most to seeing all the people, old friends and new, people I don't even know but come just to support us with ALS. This event is really about people helping people," Hassel, who has ALS, said in an email.
ALS is a disease that eventually - and sometimes quickly - attacks every muscle in the body, leaving its victims unable to talk, walk and eventually breathe. The Stroll, Roll 'n' Run caters to people in all stages of ALS and others living with disabling diseases.
In addition to a 5-kilometer race, the event features a kids' fun run, a wheelchair race and, for the more leisurely, an untimed stroll.
There will also be food, drinks, a silent auction and a worship service.
"Quite a number of people come out for a day in the park - running for us who can't run anymore, strolling for us who can't walk anymore, and even rolling in a wheelchair for those who can't even do that on their own anymore. That's what ALS does to the human body," Hassel said. "That's why we get together to raise funds for a treatment and even a cure."
Since Hassel first rolled out the event in 2010, the number of participants and volunteers has grown to include several hundred people. While a team of about 20 begins planning months before the event, as many as 80 volunteers are expected to help out on Sunday.
But while the fight against ALS strengthens in numbers, the disease continues to kill 5,000 to 6,000 people each year. Meanwhile, another 5,000 to 6,000 are diagnosed each year - including five in the past five years in Victoria.
Hassel said he and the about 35,000 other patients with ALS are grateful for the support the community continues to show.
"I'm so gonna win," he added.