"When someone you love becomes a memory...that memory becomes a treasure,” said Christine Caron, a participant in the Western Massachusetts Walk to Defeat ALS.
Each year, tens of thousands of people come together at Walk to Defeat ALS® events across the country with one common goal: to remember treasured loved ones and honor those who are fighting ALS every day.
The ALS Association launched Unlock ALS at Walk events this fall to provide participants with a tangible way to recognize the real reasons we Walk to Defeat ALS. At each Walk event, participants select a lanyard in one of four colors to represent their connection to ALS, receive a branded key, and join in a meaningful opening ceremony.
“Seeing all the different colored lanyards made me feel like we were one big family as we're all going through this together,” said Roxane Baillargeon, a Western Massachusetts Walk participant who is living with ALS.
Whatever color is chosen, the message behind Unlock ALS is powerful, uniting participants through an experience that builds hope and strengthens common bonds as members of the ALS community.
“I felt a connection with the other ‘blue lanyard’ people [and] a deep compassion for the ones who wore gold and/or white,” said Rebecca Connolly, who participated in Unlock ALS at the Western Massachusetts Walk. “I wanted to squeeze the people wearing red for caring about this cause without knowing someone [living with ALS].”.
The Walk to Defeat ALS program is The ALS Association’s largest fundraiser. There are more than 170 events across the country.
More importantly, the Walk events provide a way to honor all those living with ALS in our community and throughout the world, and a reminder that the key to Unlocking ALS – the key to a cure – begins with us.
As the Unlock ALS opening ceremony concludes, participants raise their lanyards and keys high in the air, signifying that, when it comes to Unlocking ALS, we are stronger together.
The Unlock ALS keys are left blank, so participants can customize and use them year-round. Many participants, like Christine and Rebecca, choose to keep their keys on the symbolically colored lanyard, close to their hearts, instead.
Christine keeps her lanyard and key in her car as a daily reminder of her father. Rebecca hangs her lanyard and key on the door to her office to keep the cause alive.
“My dad will always be with me and now our family and friends have a piece of him, as well,” Christine said. “[The] best part [of Unlock ALS] was we got to see how each family was connected to ALS and…this just shows no one is ever alone fighting this horrible disease. We will not stop fighting until a cure is found.”