My Dad Is My InspirationRebecca P. Portland, Oregon
My name is Rebecca Pace, and I have been working for The ALS Association since 2009. I grew up in the suburbs of Philadelphia and went to the University of Pittsburgh. When I was a freshman in college, I learned on Thanksgiving Break that my father had been diagnosed with ALS. I thought I had perhaps heard of Lou Gehrig's Disease before but knew nothing about it. And as hard as the diagnosis was to take, it was easy to go back to school five hours away and pretend it wasn't really happening. For four years I was removed from the situation, returning home each summer to see things get slightly less easy for my dad to do. He could no longer help me carry my suitcase upstairs like he used to, and soon he needed to use a manual wheelchair to go long distances. None of this struck me as hard as it did when I moved home after graduating. I saw the daily struggles my dad was going through. We suddenly had a full house with caregivers and friends coming over to stretch my father's muscles, and dinner was becoming more of a chore than a fun feast. I knew I needed to do something to help. I worked as a caregiver for my father for a few months before learning that the local ALS Association - the Greater Philadelphia Chapter - had an open position for an Events Specialist. With my background in special event planning and a major in Communication, I set my sights on this job. It was going to be my way of giving back, of using my particular skill set to do as much good as I could for the organization that gave so much strength and support for my family. I was fortunate enough to work for almost four years at The ALS Association Greater Philadelphia Chapter. I learned and grew and helped raise much needed funds for care services and research. I was close to home and had Monday Night Dinners with my family. Dad's condition worsened, but nothing killed his spirit. We were blessed with a support system of friends, family, neighbors, colleagues - truly like no other. And for that we were, and are, so lucky. My husband's continued education brought the two of us out to Portland, Oregon last June. I was sad to be leaving The ALS Association and wondered what type of career I could have that would mean quite as much to me as ALS did. As good fortune was on my side, a position opened with the Oregon and SW Washington Chapter upon my arrival to Portland, and I was lucky enough to continue my work with The ALS Association. I have met incredible families who remind me of the strength my family has shown, and it drives me further to do this work until it is no longer needed. It has been a whirlwind of a year - flying back and forth from Pennsylvania to Oregon while enjoying all that this beautiful state has to offer. While I miss my family dearly and wish I could be there to continue supporting them, I know my dad is in great hands. And each opportunity I get to see him I hold near to my heart. He is a rock, a fighter, and has an amazing spirit of never giving up. He is truly an inspiration, and my reason for hope.