Above: Danny Getzlaf cuts the ribbon on the 19th annual Walk To End ALS. – Stephen Dafoe Photos
by Stephen Dafoe
Danny Getzlaf’s Community Spirit Team were out in full force Saturday at William Hawrelak Park for the Walk to End ALS. As of Sunday, Getzlaf’s team raised $38,831.80, a little shy of the $40,000 goal Getzlaf had set for this year.
“It was an incredible support from the community,” Getzlaf said. “[It] works out to Almost $4 for every man, woman, and child in Morinville. Your support and community support truly makes a difference in the ALS community.”
Although the 19th year for the fundraising event, this year was the first year the charity walk carried the new name The Walk to End ALS. It was also the first year that Getzlaf took the helm as Walk Ambassador.
Getzlaf, a Morinville Public Works employee, was diagnosed with fatal neurodegenerative disease (ALS) in the fall of 2017. Initially, Getzlaf said he’d become fatigued at work, coming home at the end of the day for two- to three-hour naps, something that was out of character for him.
That August he told his doctor he was unable to move his right big toe. Though unconcerned himself, his doctor was, and scheduled him to see a neurologist. After an MRI, two EMG’s, and what Getzlaf said was “a bucket full of blood tests,” he was diagnosed with ALS, a disease with no cure and one which is fatal.
The Morinville man has been a tireless ambassador for the illness since being diagnosed, providing a shoulder for those diagnosed with the disease and actively fundraising for the ALS Society of Alberta. Getzlaf, who is known for his friendliness and positivity, was chosen to be the 2019 Edmonton ALS Walk Ambassador.
“I started off just creating awareness of the disease, but the reality is it takes money to find a cure for the disease and client services is very much needed,” Getzlaf said, adding 60 per cent of funds raised go to purchase speech machines, wheelchairs, stair lifts and other items. “While I’m still healthy enough, I’m going to do my best to provide an educate people about those services.
“It’s very humbling. Like I mentioned before, I’m not a scientist like Stephen Hawking or a famous baseball player like Lou Gehrig. I’m just Danny from Morinville trying to do the best. Somehow I’ve been able to relate and touch people throughout the ALS community. They’re very supportive. They like what I’m doing. I’m just the voice of ALS patients this year. I’d like to continue that for years to come.”
As Ambassador, Getzlaf was joined on stage before the event by his wife Linda and daughters Talia and Tessa Mitchell-Getzlaf. On stage, Getzlaf gave a moving off-the-cuff speech on ALS and the importance of the annual walk. (See Video Above).
Getzlaf then cut the ribbon and lead the walk following behind the ETS Pipes and Drums, who came out to support the event. Getzlaf walked the majority of the 2.5-kilometre walk with his family, and friends.
The ALS Walk Ambassador was pleased with the support for his team goal and fundraising initiative overall.
“The response from the community is amazing. It just shows how close our community is,” Getzlaf said. “I want them to know that it truly makes a difference in the ALS community.”
As of Sunday, the event had raised $258,770, 65 per cent of the ALS Society’s $400,000 goal.
Danny and Linda Getzlaf get off the Community Spirit Team bus donated by Fox Bus Lines.
Danny Getzlaf and the Community Spirit Team.
Danny Getzlaf and daughters Talia and Tessa Mitchell-Getzlaf.