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ALS hasn't stopped Devin Ward from contributing towards a cure

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The first thing you'll notice about Devin Ward is his purple beard and magenta tinted glasses. If you're lucky you'll also see his white cockatoo, Fiona, resting on his shoulder.

RESILIENCE Battling amyotrophic lateral sclerosis for three years has given Devin Ward a new purpose in life, to spread awareness of the disease and contribute to a solution. - PHOTO COURTESY OF DEVIN WARD
  • Photo Courtesy Of Devin Ward
  • RESILIENCE Battling amyotrophic lateral sclerosis for three years has given Devin Ward a new purpose in life, to spread awareness of the disease and contribute to a solution.

Second, you'll note that he has a ventilator connected to his nose and he's in a motorized wheel chair.

Ward has amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) also known as Lou Gehrig's disease, a nervous system disease that weakens the muscles and impacts physical function. He's been dealing with the disease for three years now.

In 2010 Ward moved to the Central Coast and pursued his passion for teaching. He taught first and second grade in the Santa Maria-Bonita School District.

Five years later, his educational career came to a halt when he was diagnosed with ALS.

Ward said that discovering the disease took the doctor a long time and with it came discomfort and multiple symptoms.

The disease has limited Ward physically over the past three years. He's dependent on a ventilator 24/7 and can no longer eat, walk, or dress himself. While the disease has dramatically changed his life, Ward has an optimistic outlook on the future and his current situation—on most days, he said with a shrug.

"I'm very thankful to my caretaker and friend that has been able to help me," he said.

His bright personality spreads outward to his brightly colored clothing, bracelets, and shoes.

To remain positive, Ward works with the local ALS community. He participates in The ALS Association's Walk to Defeat ALS. The association started with a small group of people that grew into a nationwide campaign with more than 175,000 participants annually.

The walk is a movement where thousands of people across the country come together to raise funds to support care service programs, enable cutting-edge research, and advance nationwide advocacy efforts for people with ALS and their families. It starts with a team leader and gathers friends and families to walk and donate under the team name.

Ward's fundraising campaign through the ALS Association is called Devin's Defeaters. Since 2016 he's gathered a big group of friends, family, and neighbors every year to support him and the ALS cause.

"I do it because I feel like my life has a purpose," he said.

Locally, Ward said, there are about 15 teams that participate in the walk. Last year, the teams raised a combined total of $70,000.

"My team alone raised over $36,000. Last year, about 100 people were on my team, but this year, a lot less people so far," he said.

This is his third year pulling a team together. In the past, Ward has rounded up friends he's made from his years living abroad.

"Last year there were people from other countries, but this year they can't come. So it will be a smaller group, but I'm trying to recruit more people," he said.

To learn more about joining Ward's team or how to donate toward researching the disease, visit purplebeardedman.com.

Fast fact

With rain in the forecast and news of the recent natural disasters across the state, PETS Hospital offers the following tips for pet owners to consider as they prepare for emergencies. Be sure that your pet is crate-trained: You will use the crate for transport, and it's essential your pet is already confortable with this process. Prepare a disaster bag for each pet—similar to a human emergency supply kit. Have a pet-friendly place to evacuate to and use caution when returning home to the disaster area.

For more information on emergency tips for pets or the PETS Hospital 24-hour veterinary emergency and urgent care center, visit petsurgentcare.com. Δ

Staff Writer Karen Garcia wrote this week's Strokes and Plugs. Send tidbits to strokes@newtimesslo.com.


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