NWA Family's Journey with ALS

FAYETTEVILLE, AR -- More than 5,000 people are diagnosed with ALS, or Lou Gehrig's Disease, every year. That is around 15 new cases a day, according to the ALS Association. The disease affects the function of nerves and muscles and can strike anyone and that fact became all too real for one Fayetteville family more than two years ago.

We first met Kim Pijanowski in June of 2012 on her journey with ALS.

"A journey is a good word. I believe that there is peace and joy even here... Healing may be at a spiritual level, but I also hold open the possibility of healing on all levels," said Kim Pijanowski in 2012.

"Something Kim said that I love to repeat was that, you know, 'I'm not dying. I'm living with a terminal disease.' Counting the days from the very first symptom, 1,599 days... Rich, poor, old, young, it really doesn't matter. ALS does not discriminate," said John Pijanowski, Kim's husband.

In July of 2014, Kim's journey ended.

"This is really, really hard. Hard work physically, emotionally, in every possible way, but I think that what we never lost sight of was the appreciation that there was a moment," said John.

He wants people to know how they can support the ALS community.

"Giving money to ALS research, which is great and we need it... Money going to your local chapter as well provides an opportunity for this education and direct support to continue... Reaching out to people in your own community and finding ways to specifically help them... 'I'm on my way to the co-op, what can I get for you?'"

John felt the impact and is continuing his journey with 5-year-old son, Jack.

"He can be sad or he can be happy and other people can be sad or happy or angry around all of this and all those reactions are okay and he gets that and, so I think we're going to be just fine."

To learn more about Kim's journey with ALS, click here.

One of the other ways people are showing support for ALS is the Ice Bucket Challenge. It has been all over social media. The idea is to dump a bucket of ice cold water on your head, donate to ALS, and challenge others to do the same.

The cycle of giving continues and more people are learning about ALS with each Ice Bucket Challenge. On average, it costs $250,000 a year to keep an ALS patient in their home. So, the ALS Association Arkansas Chapter is hoping people will take the challenge and make a donation.

"Since July 29 through today currently, it's almost $10-million in increased revenue versus about $1.6-million just on the national level. So, it has absolutely gone viral and we are very, very excited about the awareness that it has brought and we just want people to continue on and keep this going for us," said Jennifer Necessary, Executive Director, ALS Association Arkansas Chapter Inc.

There is also an opportunity to take a Walk to Defeat ALS. It is happening Saturday, September 27 at Lawrence Plaza in Bentonville. Check in starts at 9:30 in the morning and the walk starts at 10:30. It is a one-mile trek to help raise money and awareness and is the ALS Association's biggest annual event. It helps our Northwest Arkansas chapter continue providing care services to families living with ALS.

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