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Former Santa Maria Bonita elementary teacher to be honored with 2019 Walk Hero Award at the 8th Annual San Luis Obispo Walk to Defeat ALS® on Saturday, April 13, 2019

March 1, 2019- San Luis Obispo, CA (Download printable version)

  Devin in SLO 2016

Devin Ward and Team

The ALS Association Golden West Chapter will honor Devin Ward with the inaugural 2019 San Luis Obispo Walk Hero Award at the 8th annual San Luis Obispo Walk to Defeat ALS. The award is presented to an individual who is making courageous and inspirational efforts in the areas of advocacy, fundraising, and public awareness while living with ALS. 

Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), also known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease, is a fatal, neurodegenerative disease that attacks nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord.  ALS does not discriminate -- women and men of all ages and backgrounds are at risk, though for unknown reasons veterans are diagnosed with ALS twice as often as civilians.  People with ALS lose their ability to move, speak, swallow, and eventually the ability to breathe, while thoughts and all five senses often continue to function normally.  At this time, there is no known cure. 

Ward was born and raised in rural, central Pennsylvania farm country and settled in Arroyo Grande, CA in 2000 after living, working and studying abroad in Germany and Japan for 15 years. Upon arrival in California, Ward immediately pursued his California teaching credential and was employed as a first and second grade teacher in Santa Maria Bonita School District until his ALS diagnosis in 2015.

Ward is deeply committed to supporting the search for effective treatments and cures for ALS. He dedicates time to educating others about ALS, through community events, news interviews, and an active social media presence to raise awareness and support for the ALS community.  

“We serve nearly 1900 families in our service area and promote 11 Walks, and only a small fraction of those we serve are recognized with this award,” remarks Asher Garfinkel, VP of Community Outreach for The Golden West Chapter. “Devin is extremely deserving as the inaugural Walk Hero honoree on the Central Coast. He has been an extraordinary ambassador for the ALS community locally and nationally. He went to Washington, D.C. last year to advocate for improved access to care and increased research funding. Even though he can no longer speak, Devin selflessly continues to ‘raises his voice’ in the community and on social media to spread awareness of the challenges, fears, and hopes connected to living with ALS.”

With a ventilator and a tracheostomy he can no longer eat, walk or talk. Although he is limited physically, he is still able to type on an ipad to communicate with people in person and via email.  Ward tries to maintain a positive outlook and remains hopeful for future treatments. He is very much inspired by and grateful for family, friends, neighbors, former students, and even strangers who continue to love and support him.

“The ALS walk gives my life additional meaning, a purpose.  I've become an ALS warrior and the walk gives me a platform to let my voice be heard.  While my advocacy may not help me much personally, I'm hoping to help affect change for future generations, to help ensure better access to ALS care and research funding.  ”    

Since 2016, Ward, along with his family and friends, has participated in the San Luis Obispo Walk to Defeat ALS as “Devin’s Defeaters” and have raised over $80,000 in support of the mission of The ALS Association Golden West Chapter. 

The family-friendly 8th Annual San Luis Obispo Walk to Defeat ALS® will be held on Saturday, April 13, 2019 at Mitchell Park at 1400 Osos Street, San Luis Obispo, CA. Registration starts at 9:30 a.m. with special opening ceremonies beginning at 10:15 a.m. and will feature speakers, the presentation of the 2019 Walk Hero Award and a special warm up. At 11:00 a.m., the 1 mile Walk will start at Mitchell Park and walk through the streets of Downtown San Luis Obispo. The event is open to the public, and all funds raised support the mission-critical priorities of The ALS Association Golden West Chapter in Care Services, Public Policy, and Research.  This year’s goal is to raise $65,000 to advance the search for effective treatments and cures for ALS and to serve the diverse, urgent needs of the ALS community on the Central Coast.  To make a donation to Devin’s Defeaters in honor of Devin Ward, go to:

About The ALS Association and the Golden West Chapter

The mission of The ALS Association is discover treatments and a cure for ALS, and to serve, advocate for, and empower people affected by ALS to live their lives to the fullest. We are a member of the National Health Council and the only National organization solely dedicated to fighting ALS on all fronts while directly serving the ALS community. By leading the way in global research, providing assistance for people with ALS through a nationwide network of chapters, coordinating multidisciplinary care through certified clinical care centers, and fostering government partnerships, The ALS Association builds hope and enhances quality of life while aggressively searching for new treatments and a cure. The Golden West Chapter serves more than 1,900 people with ALS and their families in 31 counties throughout California and the state of Hawaii.

For more information about ALS please visit  Walkers can register for the 2019 San Luis Obispo Walk to Defeat ALS at   For more information about sponsoring, covering, or attending the event, please contact Janelle Webb, Community Outreach Coordinator at  or (818) 865-8067.