The symptoms lasted for months, and everything pointed to the eventual diagnosis, but ALS did not truly become real to EJ Becker until the end of August 2017 when the neurologist said, “We are 100% sure that your father has ALS.”
Since then, EJ has tried to wrap his head around how they could have happened, what resources are available, and what can he do?
“I was personally shocked in that doctor’s office,” said EJ. “I literally had no words, just tears and disbelief. Then it quickly became real as his symptoms progressed.”
Sadly, those symptoms progressed very quickly. EJ and his family say that they were comforted by the care team at The ALS Association Greater Philadelphia Chapter for always being one step ahead of what they needed. EJ’s mom, like so many other spouses, tried to do a lot on her own, but the Chapter stepped in to relieve as many challenges as possible, including providing a loaner power wheelchair and in-home care.
While the Chapter could provide a lot of resources and programs, nothing could make the situation easy or tolerable for EJ, who had a strong and loving relationship with his father. Unable to sit back and let others do everything, EJ tried to find his own way to make a difference. His friends gave him advice and said to just put one foot in front of the other, show up, and do what you believe will leave you with no regrets.
So EJ did just that. He showed up as much as he could, making sure that he could be a positive presence in his father’s life as the disease progressed. Unfortunately, that progression was even faster than anyone could have expected and EJ’s father passed away in March of 2018.
After EJ lost his father to ALS, he thought back to that advice from his friends. He felt a need to show up and do something to honor his father.
In the fall of 2018, just months after his father passed away, EJ connected with the Chapter to raise money for the ALS cause through running. He signed up for and completed his first Philadelphia half marathon in November of 2018. As great as he felt to finish that race, he felt even better for having raised nearly $3,500 for The ALS Association Greater Philadelphia Chapter.
“I was so overwhelmed with emotion from all the support while I ran in honor of my dad,” said EJ. “I plan to run another marathon this year to raise even more money.”
Through just one event, EJ saw what was possible and he saw what he could personally accomplish. He reached out to the Chapter again to offer his time and energy, participating in the 2019 Sips and Sweets event. His enthusiasm was contagious, and the Chapter talked with EJ about how he could use his talents and ideas to make an even bigger impact.
First, EJ became a volunteer at the 2019 Phillies Phestival. It was a dream come true for him to work alongside the Phillies stars to help make the event a seamless success which raised over $768,000 to Strike Out ALS. EJ’s father was a huge Phillies fan and EJ took time at the Phestival to post a special Father’s Day message honoring him on his social media.
The Chapter then reached out to EJ to ask him to relaunch the Chapter’s Young Professionals Group along with Moriah Kelly. Together they are excited to develop strategies for more young people to use their talents and energy on behalf of the ALS cause. This new group will create volunteer opportunities to raise more money and awareness to end ALS.
The Chapter’s success is built on the hard work of volunteers of all ages and backgrounds. Some people have supported the Chapter for decades. Some are new. EJ, while honoring his father, is part of the future progress of The ALS Association Greater Philadelphia Chapter and we are excited to see his potential fulfilled as he lifts up all families affected by this disease.