“We are very fortunate…” That’s how Maureen Spaniak, our September Volunteer of the Month begins her sentences. In Maureen’s world, there is no glass “half empty” – only “half full.” This dynamo has been standing by her sister, Patti Lake-Quinn’s side at every single Billy Lake ALS Basketball Marathon and Billy Lake Beef and Beer since 1992, the year Patti lost her first husband, Billy Lake, to ALS. He was only 42 years old.
Maureen, Patti and their four siblings lost their own father when they were very young. She credits her nurturing mother, Rita McDonald, with teaching them the value of family. “We genuinely loved each other,” she says. She continues, “When Patti brought Billy home for the first time, he was carrying a pizza for all of us and he was in!!”
When she learned her brother-in-law Billy had ALS, Maureen helped care for the Lakes’ four young children. She and her husband Joe felt it was a “privilege” to care for Billy as well. When Billy lost his ability to speak, Maureen, herself a kindergarten teacher (she is now in her 35th-year of teaching at Upper Darby Kindergarten Center in Drexel Hill, PA), and Billy devised a game using the alphabet wheel to communicate.
“He was such a fun, kind man. I loved seeing him in his dad role…he was the proudest dad. It was a gift to see how happy his four kids made him.”
Maureen channels those memories into giving back. While she would argue the point, she is truly a secret strength behind the Billy Lake Events. Soliciting auction items, putting together baskets, setting up, breaking down, selling tickets…Patti’s sister does it all. In addition, you will find her walking with Patti and her husband Dan at the Seaside Walk to Defeat ALS or Greater Philadelphia Walk, and attending events from the Annual Dinner to the Phillies Phestival. “It’s an entire community of family, friends, neighbors, and caring people who know, love and miss someone who has heard the diagnosis her brother-in-law heard over 27 years ago, “You have ALS.”
It’s so fitting that Maureen, her husband and two children, Joseph 25 and Lea, 23, love spending time with the Lake/Quinn/McDonald extended family. Everyone pitches in for the ALS cause. Maureen’s impetus is the epitome of optimism. “ALS is something we all truly want to be cured. We need to help in any capacity to give hope to those facing this diagnosis. Hopefully that cure will be very very soon.”
It is said that ALS affects not only the patient, but the entire family. On behalf of the entire ALS community, and especially the Billy Lake family, thank you, Maureen, for consistently keeping that glass half full.