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When facing the challenges of ALS, community is everything
An open letter from Charles Howlett


I have always been a person who liked to be a part of a community. I was born and raised in the Bay Area, and have built my life and career here. I spent over 22 years teaching History in the Contra Costa Unified School District. I have a beautiful 17-year-old daughter, and I love being her dad. I am a huge baseball fan and, in my spare time, I enjoy seeing games and playing softball with my friends.

I first noticed something was wrong when I couldn't run in my softball games without falling down. I was developing cramps in my legs and generalized weakness, but I cracked it up to just a fact of getting older. Eventually, I was sent to be seen by doctors at UCSF where I was diagnosed with ALS at the age of 53. My life changed that day and, with those words, I became a different person.

Me with “Team Softball” at the 2019 East Bay Walk to Defeat ALS.

Living with ALS is like running into a very strong wind. You are working hard to move, but you're not getting anywhere. I'm still able to walk and I do as much as I can. But everything seems to get harder and harder, and my energy and physical stamina are sapped. ALS takes away a lot of who you are. Things that I used to enjoy -- like hiking, walking the dog, playing softball, teaching -- all became chores, rather than something I would want to do. But my love for softball hasn’t wavered, even though I can’t play it the way I used to.

That’s why, starting in 2019, I chose to participate in the Golden West Chapter’s Walk to Defeat ALS and help to fuel the search for effective treatments and cures. This year, my team and I will be playing in a local softball game on Walk day, Saturday, October 23. It’s an opportunity to be together doing something we love, while raising urgently-needed awareness and funds for ALS care, cures, and community.

This week, the Golden West Chapter Walk to Defeat ALS is holding a Countdown Challenge with an important goal of “going the extra mile” by using Challenge Hound to do an activity you love in honor of the ALS community. The first step is for you to join the 2021 Golden West Chapter Walk to Defeat ALS.

After you sign up for the Walk, you can log every action you take on behalf of our ALS community to raise ALS awareness through Challenge Hound. Dedicate every mile you walk, roll, hike or complete your own way, throughout Walk-tober in honor of the 1800 families facing ALS served by the Golden West Chapter. My softball team and I will be using Challenge Hound to record the miles we achieve through the bases we run. It is a way to raise awareness and support for our ALS community - and for some friendly competition!

I won't surrender to ALS. I will be out and at it, as long as I can. Please join me in signing up for the Walk and getting active on Challenge Hound, choosing any activity that means something to you. Take the steps for those who can’t, make the memories with those you love. It is only together that we will defeat ALS.

Charles Howlett
Living with ALS since 2017
Team Captain, Team Softball