In the summer of 1994, my father, Jimmie Neil, was diagnosed with ALS. Months prior to his diagnosis, he experienced back pain that just simply wouldn’t go away. ALS was foreign to doctors at the time and unfortunately he was subjected to multiple doctor’s visits until he was diagnosed with ALS. At the time, I was only 9 years old. Many thoughts ran through my head. What is ALS? Is there a cure? Will my father die from it? How long does he have? How can I support him? How will our lives change?
My father was such an amazing friend, father, and husband. Even though I was only able to spend 11 years on earth with him, they were by far the best years of my life. He was a chef in the greater Boston area and loved the culinary arts. He loved to cook for his family at home and on the weekends, he would always make time to play with my brother and I or support us at our little league baseball games. Baseball was how the community got to know how great my father was. He would always be joking with the other parents and I could always hear him cheer me on.
As this horrible disease began to rob him of his abilities, he never gave up and always made every effort to attend my baseball games. I remember one Saturday afternoon, I thought my father’s health was too poor for him to come watch me play. Right before the game started, I heard and saw other parents in the stands get out of their seats to say hi to my father and to help him get his wheelchair as close as possible to the game so he could cheer me on. That is something I’ll never forget. My father passed away later that summer in 1997.
The assistance of those parents was extremely symbolic because it represents exactly what The Angel Fund is all about. No one person or family can take this dreadful disease on. It must be a collaborative effort! Over the past 20 years I have watched The Angel Fund evolve into what it is today, and my father would be so proud to see how much awareness, research, and community support there is surrounding this horrific disease. Every dollar is unequivocally important to fund research for a cure, but we must also remember that emotional support is crucial to families and friends that are impacted by ALS. They need someone to laugh with, cry with, and to just be there when it matters most.
My team will be running in honor of my wonderful friend and father Jimmie Neil. To donate, please visit my fundraising page.
Thank you and God Bless!