Overwhelming support at Walk for ALS moves Cornwall sports hero to tears

By Adam Brazeau 
CORNWALL, Ontario – Brian Tardiff is facing the battle of his life, but he’s not alone.

Hundreds rallied at the 11th Walk for ALS in Cornwall Saturday to follow Tardiff on a short march that will go a long way.

Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) is a terminal disease that does not discriminate. Even those who are the most physically fit are not immune from the devastating illness. Ninety per cent of ALS patients die within five years of diagnosis and some in less than one.

Tardiff, who helped foster girls minor hockey and baseball/softball leagues in the city, was diagnosed with ALS (sometimes called Lou Gherig’s Disease) late last year.

“Sports is all about the challenge. ALS will certainly be that and more,” said Tardiff.

Before he led hundreds of people from St. Lawrence College along the city’s bike path to the Nav Centre, Tardiff was at a loss for words as he tearfully addressed the crowd.

“I could talk about ALS and it doesn’t bother me, but as soon as I talk about the support in the city I’m overwhelmed,” said Tardiff.

The walk raised over $22,000.

Melissa Ferguson, Walk For ALS coordinator, lost her brother, Peter, three years ago to ALS, as well as several family members.

“This event is important to support because Lou Gherig’s Disease is not well-known and this year Brian is helping put a face on it,” said Ferguson.

Lianne Johnston, ALS Canada’s eastern Ontario regional manager, noted that the most recent death due to the disease locally was two weeks ago.

An estimated 3,000 Canadians (11 in the Cornwall area) are living with ALS, yet there are currently no effective treatment options.

Johnston said the biggest expense for ALS Canada is the cost of medical equipment, which they give to their clients for free. Over a lifetime, each client needs roughly $145,000 in equipment, not counting any of the health care services they provide.

She trumpeted the Tardiff family for showing the community how the disease impacts families.

“It’s really, really hard to be the face of ALS and put yourself out there,” said Johnston. “We thank the Tardiffs – it takes a lot of courage.”

The local Walk for ALS campaign is striving to raise $35,000 by the end of 2014. To make a donation, visit walkforals.ca/ontario.

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