In honor of their mother JoAnn, the Goudie family’s Walk to Defeat ALS T-shirts say, “We did it for Jo.” But, for more than 20 years, the family has been working to end ALS for more families than they can count.
The Ocean City Walk to Defeat ALS has been a tremendous part of Kevin Goudie’s life and his heart since he learned about his mother’s ALS diagnosis on April 20, 1999. Her symptoms had started about a year earlier in her bulbar region, affecting her speech and swallowing. Getting a firm ALS diagnosis was even more difficult in the late 1990’s than it is today, and doctors had to rule out other diseases before concluding she had ALS. The Goudie family didn’t need a year to figure out how to respond. They knew that they would unite behind their family matriarch in any and every way possible.
At that time, there were fewer opportunities to lead the fight against ALS, particularly in southern New Jersey. When JoAnn and her husband Bob were attending a Chapter ALS Treatment Center, they learned about the many resources that were available. The Chapter readily offered assistance with speech typing equipment, a wheelchair ramp, and more.
Bob Goudie was impressed with these services and invited leaders from the Chapter to come visit with him in Ocean City, NJ so that they could see the fundraising possibilities the boardwalk and community offered. It was a perfect match! The Ocean City Board…Walk to Defeat ALS became one of the first and now one of the longest running Walk to Defeat ALS events in the entire country.
The Ocean City Board…Walk to Defeat ALS initially honored JoAnn Goudie and raised money to support the needs of all ALS families. Bob invited his son Kevin to become the logistics chairman and Kevin jumped at the honor right away. His siblings all took on other positions with great enthusiasm and love for their mother.
Very quickly, their drive expanded to involve the wider world of ALS. The event grew in popularity throughout the region. In the 20 plus years that the event has taken over the boardwalk, Kevin has taken each patient’s battle personally, cheering them on as if they were part of his extended family.
That new “extended family” includes many people connected not just to ALS, but to Ocean City. Kevin is humbled by the outpouring of support from people like Ocean City Mayor Jay Gillian, St. Peter’s United Methodist Church, and countless volunteers who volunteer before and during Walk day. The Walk to Defeat ALS began as a grassroots effort and has grown to become one of Ocean City’s major events thanks to the city’s willingness and eagerness to support the cause.
“The Walk to Defeat ALS is so special because it provides an opportunity to do something to help in a situation that can feel helpless,” said Kevin. “I have seen friendships form and teams return year after year even if their loved one has passed away. There are teams that have been walking for 20 years alongside Jo’s Rowdy Goudies.”
Kevin is constantly looking for ways to make each walk stand out as something special and memorable. It is not uncommon for Kevin to tell Chapter staff, “I’m planning something cool this year. It’s a surprise.” From airplane messages to Star Wars characters, to the boat filled with ice and water, the event ends up being as fun as it is memorable.
One of Kevin’s favorite moments was taking a photo of the starting line at the Walk’s 10th anniversary. There was a mass of supporters as far as eye could see, all waiting for the ribbon cutting. That memorable moment was made possible by JoAnn Goudie and her family rallying on her behalf.
JoAnn’s presence is still felt each year. The Ocean City Board…Walk to Defeat ALS started in her honor and continues to spread love and energy to all ALS families. Over the past 20 plus years, JoAnn Goudie’s battle with ALS has made an impact on hundreds of ALS families in South Jersey and beyond.
Thank you to our Volunteer of the Month Kevin Goudie for making every detail of the Walk to Defeat ALS matter. The Chapter is forever grateful to the entire Goudie family for all that they have done and continue to do to make life better for all people affected by ALS.