In recognition of National Volunteer Month, we are shining a spotlight on some of The ALS Association’s amazing, dedicated volunteers and highlighting the incredible work they are doing to support our mission and make a difference for people living with ALS and their families.
Some experts say volunteering provides both physical and mental rewards for people who choose to donate their time. Focusing on someone other than yourself, they say, can actually reduce stress, and help invoke positive emotions like optimism and joy. Whatever the reason “why,” we are forever grateful for the many volunteers working with us to create a world with ALS.
Volunteers like Mike Koehler in Kansas City, Missouri. Lyndy Elmore, one of the managing directors of volunteer engagement at the Association, says Mike has been their lead volunteer for over ten years. When she started with her local team in 2012, she said, “It was apparent he was the lead volunteer, so we dubbed him our Volunteer Guru!” They even made a special shirt for him to wear to show him how much they appreciated his time and hard work.
According to Lyndy, Mike leads all three of their Kansas City event volunteers, including a gala, a golf tournament and the Kansas City Walk to Defeat ALS®. He organizes the volunteers and acts as their main point of contact, managing and assigning tasks on the day of the events. “He truly is the backbone of each of our events and we are very lucky to have him,” she said.
Mike shared with us why he chooses to donate his time to the Association, and what supporting the ALS community means to him. Here’s a bit of what he had to say:
“I think Kansas City is unique in its awareness of ALS as a community, or at least it has had a prominent place in the sports world in KC for quite a while, which may make it a little more well known than other cities.
In the 70’s, George Brett, the biggest sports figure in the city, began championing the cause in the name of his friend, Keith Worthington. In the 90’s, Joe McGuff, one of the most influential people in Kansas City sports and editor of the Kansas City Star, was diagnosed with ALS. In the early 2000’s, Bruce Edwards, longtime caddy and friend to KC native and golfing legend, Tom Watson, was diagnosed with the dreaded disease. Due to these high-profile figures, it would seem Kansas City is more in tune with the disease than many cities.
So, ever since I can remember, I’ve been aware of ALS, and what it was. It made an impact on me as a young boy to think how bad it can be for a Royal to be fighting against a disease named for a New York Yankee, but then that young boy is taught what it really is, and it makes an impression.
But it wasn’t until late 2010 when the father of a friend of mine from graduate school contracted the horrible disease that I started volunteering. As my friend needed to move home to help care for him, I needed to find something that I could do to help in the fight.
My uncle had volunteered with the Mid-America team for several years, and he suggested that I volunteer at their golf tournament and the Walk in 2011. After that, the team asked if I’d be willing to coordinate all of their volunteers for their big fundraising events, and I’ve been doing that for the last 12 years.
I keep volunteering because when you’ve seen how resilient the families are and what they must battle through while caring for their loved ones, you can’t help but want to be there to support any event that can help them.
Whether the event is an auction, gala or golf tournament where the Association is working to bring in funding for research and to provide services and equipment, or the Walk to Defeat ALS®, which not only brings in donations but also celebrates the patients and caregivers; it is gratifying to do something to help in the fight.
In addition, the local team here has some amazing people on their staff, and they have become friends. It becomes an added bonus when you can help your friends in their efforts to put on great events for a great cause.”
Thank you, Mike, for all that you do to support the ALS community, and for allowing us to share your inspiring story this month. And thank you to all of our volunteers who so graciously give their time to help support the ALS community. We could not do what we do without you!
To learn more about how you can get involved in the fight against ALS like Mike, visit our website HERE.
To continue following stories about people living with ALS in the community and learn more about the disease, subscribe to receive our weekly blogs in your inbox HERE or follow us at als.org/blog.
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