Travelers trekking Florida’s highways might view trailers attached to pick-up trucks as commonplace on the road, but anyone following Steve Franks’ truck and trailer will think otherwise. That’s because the 7’ by 14’ dual axle trailer and his 2003 Dodge Ram carries a special message along with materials that inform people about the impact that ALS has on individuals and their families.
Since July 2003, Franks, 52, has lived with ALS, a progressive neurodegenerative muscular disease. However, he is battling Lou Gehrig’s Disease by taking the “Piece by Piece” Awareness Campaign across the Sunshine State via truck and trailer. For his role in expanding public awareness of this disease, The ALS Association’s Florida Chapter recognizes Franks and his family for exemplifying the spirit of “ALS Across America” during May.
Those who notice the unique trailer will see images of mannequins along with verbiage that reads, “Lou Gehrig’s Disease is stealing our loved ones piece by piece.” The “Piece by Piece” installation features 150 mannequins and each of these figures represents an individual affected by ALS whose bodies literally have been stolen “piece by piece” because of the disease.
Volunteers across the state have assisted Franks in assembling these displays once he arrives at a particular location. Franks and his wife and primary caregiver, Susie, a teaching assistant who works with emotionally handicapped elementary school students, have taken the campaign to 27 different locations including Tampa and St. Augustine since 2009.
“Steve and Susie’s commitment and dedication is unrelenting,” says the chapter’s office administrator, Lisa Bublinec. “Steve is always upbeat and thinking of how we, as an Association, can bring more awareness to this devastating disease.”
Not only has Franks taken the “Piece by Piece” campaign across hundreds of road miles, but also he has helped the chapter to save thousands of dollars in shipping the exhibit.
“Without Steve’s perseverance, we would have no way to transport this display,” Bublinec says of the retired golf course superintendent. “When the display was being created, and before Steve volunteered, we were considering having to rent a moving truck every time this display gets installed. Steve stepped up and offered to find a trailer and transport and install the display himself.”
People who want to learn more about “Piece by Piece” can visit the installation’s Web site at www.stealingpieces.org. The site features powerful photos of the exhibit and inspiring videos of Floridians impacted by ALS.
The Franks family attended The Association’s National ALS Advocacy Day and Public Policy Conference last year along with the “Piece by Piece” exhibit, and they will attend this year’s conference accompanied by the trailer and mannequins from May 8 - 10. They will take the display to Chicago in early May and also to various other locales around Florida in 2011.