Commonly known as ALS, the condition is a progressive neurodegenerative disease that affects nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord, and it is always fatal. The affected motor neurons deteriorate and the brain and spinal cord lose their ability to send signals to muscles, which begin to atrophy. As muscles lose nourishment, those affected lose their ability to speak, move, eat and breathe. The average life expectancy of those afflicted with ALS is two to five years, and there is no cure.

However, researchers have in the past few years made progress, and public awareness of ALS gained a viral presence with the ice bucket challenge in 2014. The battle against the disease continues, with more than 5,000 people diagnosed each year.

The recent fundraiser at Apollo-Ridge was a resounding response from a community recovering from its own personal strife with the dreaded disease.

Kristin Womeldorf, a student at Apollo-Ridge High School and a Lion’s Club member, has a history of ALS in her family. The dis- ease has taken several family members. It currently afflicts her aunt, and her mother, Barb, died this year from the disease.

With May being ALS Awareness Month, Womeldorf took the initiative to center the Lion’s Club fundraiser on the disease. In only a handful of days, the friendly competition saw students and staff donate more than $2,700. With added contributions from

the Lion’s Club and greater Apollo-Ridge community, the fund- raiser yielded a total of $3,000. Womeldorf could not focus in class the day she learned of the fundraising total because she was left speechless by the sizable tally.

The ALS Association was a source of inspiration for Womeldorf, as the organization had helped pay for her mother’s medical bills, along with physical and speech therapy. The association also gave her tools to help during her final months, including a device to assist with both communication and traversing the stairs in their house.

It was mind-boggling to the teen that these complete strangers gave so much of their time and resources to keep her mother comfortable until the end. The experience set off a spark in her heart and Womeldorf promised her mom she would continue making a difference for others affected by ALS, just as the association did for her mother.

The major success of the fundraiser is just the beginning for Womeldorf. She and her sister started “Barbie’s Brigade” in honor of her mom, and they continue to organize ALS fundraisers.

Womeldorf will be a senior in the fall and she plans to eventually attend college on a bowling scholarship, and double major in sports management and communications. Wherever the wind may take her, the drive to help others will follow. The efforts of the Apollo-Ridge community and the ALS Association have inspired a young woman to carry on the cause, and with the help of people like Womeldorf, we may be able to fulfill the ALS Association’s motto and create a world without ALS.