NORFOLK, Neb. – Lou Gehrig died in 1941 from complications of the horrible disease that bears the baseball legend’s name. Nearly 80-years later, the fight to raise awareness and find a cure for the progressive nervous system disease Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, or ALS, continues. Some health and wellness students at Northeast Community College are among those who are doing what they can to help.
Students in the College’s Physical Therapist Assistant (PTA) program have participated in the ALS in the Heartland Norfolk and Columbus Community Walk since 2007, according to Laura Schwanebeck, program director.
“Having our students take part in this event is a wonderful opportunity for them to not only give back to an amazing organization, but to experience the effect that ALS has on the lives of patients and their family members.”
ALS is a rapidly progressive, invariably fatal neurological disease that attacks the nerve cells (neurons) responsible for controlling voluntary muscles. The cause is unknown. There are no known preventative measures, and there is no recognized cure. Approximately 30,000 people nationwide suffer from ALS.
Schwanebeck said on the day of the walk recently, students spent time creating posters and speaking with family members who have had loved ones affected by the disease.
“The biggest part of the day is the ceremonial walk around Skyview Lake (in Norfolk) to honor those who are living with and those who have lost their lives to the disease,” she said.
In addition to raising a minimum of $100 each and going into businesses to raise awareness, Northeast PTA students typically volunteer with set up and take down during the event, participate in face painting and other children’s activities, take photos, staff water and snack stations and provide any other assistance to ALS in the Heartland representatives to ensure a successful Community Walk each year. In 2020, however, things were different.
“The event was held virtually, and participants could walk at whatever location they wanted, even if it was inside their own home,” Schwanebeck said. “Pictures and videos could be posted to the ALS in the Heartland Facebook page. In total, the class raised nearly $1800.”
ALS in the Heartland is not funded by nor affiliated with a national association; 100% of funds raised during the walk remain in Nebraska and Iowa and immediately support people with ALS living in those states.
Participation by Northeast PTA students in the ALS Community Walk is part of a service-learning activity that is designed to encourage self-reflection and professional growth. Students are required to write a paper explaining how the event changed them as a person and how they demonstrated the American Physical Therapy Association’s core values of accountability, altruism, compassion/caring, excellence, integrity, professional duty and social responsibility.
“We are pleased to take part in the ALS in the Heartland Community Walk and do our part to raise awareness of the disease and the organization,” Schwanebeck said
Northeast Community College Physical Therapy Assistant (PTA) students participated in the 2020 ALS In the Heartland Norfolk and Columbus Community Walk recently to raise awareness of the progressive nervous system disease, Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis. Collectively, the students raised $1,800. PTA students who participated are (front row, from left) are Alisha Beyke, Laurel; Hannah Kasik, Leigh; and Cambrie Cottam, Hebron. Back row (from left) Kaitlynn Sjuts, Humphrey, Tara Millard, Pierce; Katelyn Buhrman, St. Libory; Kennedy Schuttler, Bancroft; Alexis Detour, Norfolk; Kiara Brabec, Clarkson; and Hayley Vitosh, Norfolk.