You may have seen the ALS ice bucket challenges, and wondered, what is ALS? Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), which is often referred to as Lou Gehrig’s Disease, is a neuromuscular, fatal disease. ALS slowly entombs peope in their lifeless body while their brain is fully functional. With a fully functioning brain, and a body that no longer works, that means that an ALS patient is a prisoner within himself or herself with a life sentence.

There are roughly 30,000 people that may have the ALS disease at any time, which is less than 1 percent of the U.S. population. Every 90 minutes someone is diagnosed with ALS, and every 90 minutes, someone loses a battle with this crippling disease. On average, it costs $200,000 to care for an ALS patient, some of which do not have financial help. Since ALS has a very short life expectancy, by the time a patient receives disability insurance, it is often too late.

My family lost my father, Blake Hanzlick, on October 30, 2002 to ALS. Although my dad was diagnosed with this awful disease, he was never without his smile or contagious laugh. ALS robbed my dad of seeing two of his children graduate, marriages, grandchildren, friendships, and family relationships. After he was diagnosed, my dad lost his ability to use his arms, swallow, and walk without assistance within a short amount of time.

Our lives were never without smiles. We made the best of our time with our dad/husband because we knew that time was limited. My dad made sure that he traveled to Tennessee to watch my brother play baseball in the summer of 2002 even though his hospice nurses told him he may not make it back. To him, there was no harm in going because he loved watching his kids play sports, so what a way to go. We were very blessed that Hospice Care of Kansas made sure that he was set up with what he needed to go to Tennessee. Without hospice care and our ALS Association support, our lives would have been a lot worse. They were more than just nurses and therapists; they became friends. Our family and friends began to walk in the annual ALS walk while my dad was still able to go.

My dad was very involved in sports with his children, church at the United Methodist Church in Augusta, and hunting. We were extremely blessed to have a great community, family and friends to support us through the difficult time in our lives.

On October 29th, 2002, my dad knew his battle was coming to an end. He made sure to let us all know how much we meant to him. Early on the 30th, he passed away at home surrounded by his family. We never knew how many lives he touched until his funeral. The church was overflowing with people. These people are the ones who made our lives better. Every call, visit, letter, meal, or hug did not go unnoticed.

In memory of my dad, we continue to raise awareness and donations to benefit the other ALS patients and their families. We have held a co-ed slow pitch softball tournament in memory of my dad in August of this year, and also are hosting our 2nd annual Blake Hanzlick Memorial Golf Tournament at the Augusta Country Club on September 6th at 3 pm. For those of you who haven’t had a chance to participate in the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge, now is your chance. At the golf tournament, we are participating in the challenge and nominate the Augusta Community to take it with us. If you have already taken the challenge and are looking for a place to make your donation, you can drop it off at the Augusta Country Club at the golf tournament.