One woman turned her loss into a passion to raise awareness for ALS

PEORIA - You may have heard of the disease thanks to the ice bucket challenge. But for one woman and her family, ALS was in their lives far before the social media craze. About 8 years ago, Melanie Dittrich's father was diagnosed with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, or ALS.

"Your body will shut down, your mind stays completely the same" said Dittrich. "For my father he had where it affected his legs at first so he had numbness in his legs, tingling in his legs, would get up to walk and he would fall over."

Prior to her father's diagnosis, she knew nothing about the disease.

"It's one of those things that everyone says 'Oh Lou Gehrig's disease, I've heard of that', but I have no idea what that means for my family, for my father, and so that was kind of the scariest part for us" said Dittrich. 

Melanie took to the internet, and quickly learned there is no cure for the disease.

"That was very discouraging that there was really no options available for anything with my father."

Not even a year after he was diagnosed, her father passed away. She and her family have since made it their mission to spread the word about the disease, getting involved with a local ALS chapter. 

"Honestly I started working with them for selfish reasons, it was therapeutic for me i felt like in losing my father to this, the least I could do was try to help somebody else in some way shape or form, whether it was through getting the word out, whether it was through fundraising" said Dittrich.

Things like the ice bucket challenge brought national attention to the cause. Now every year, Melanie and her family raise money for the Walk to Defeat ALS. Connecting with the other volunteers has helped her heal.

"I've grown to love these people, it's a community that takes care of each other, the word that has gotten out in our local area because of the people that are here has just been phenomenal in the last few years and I'm excited to see this in the direction it's going" said Dittrich.

The walk to defeat ALS is Saturday September 9th at Dozer Park. It kicks off at 8:30 AM. You can sign up or donate here.


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