The Grayslake lacrosse community is coming together to honor and support one of its own.
Members of the Grayslake Youth Lacrosse Association, along with lacrosse players from both Grayslake Central and North High Schools, will be participating in the Les Turner ALS Foundation's Run4ALS at the Shamrock Shuffle, slated for April 7 in Chicago's Grant Park. They're raising money in honor of Grayslake resident Tim Paust, who formed the Grayslake Youth Lacrosse Association with fellow resident Brad Fish in 2007.
Tim was diagnosed with Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or ALS, in February 2012. Also known as Lou Gehrig's Disease, ALS "is a progressive neurodegenerative disease that affects nerve cells in the brain and the spinal cord," according to the ALS Association.
"It's just such a tough thing to see," said Fish. "Hopefully, we can show (Tim) how important he is."
Fish said he and Tim started the Grayslake Youth Lacrosse Association in 2007. At the time, the two men were looking for lacrosse leagues for their sons to play in, so they decided to start their own league. That first year, there were just 30 players in the program.
"This year, there will probably be about 175," said Fish, who also coaches the Grayslake North team.
Fish thought it would be a good idea to get players together from the two high schools, most of whom participated in the youth program, and have them run the Shamrock Shuffle in Tim's honor. He said some of the youth are expected to participate as well.
"I wanted to give back and have the community support Tim," said Fish.
As of Feb. 28, the Grayslake Lacrosse group had raised $11,163. The ultimate goal is $25,000, according to the group's fundraising page on the Shamrock Shuffle website.
There is also the Tim's Troops group, which includes Tim's wife, Deb. The group has raised $7,091 toward its $10,000 goal as of Feb. 28.
The support from the community has been overwhelming, said Deb Paust.
"What a great town we live in," said Deb. "We are just blessed with amazing support from our family and friends, and people we don't even know."
The Paust family has lived in Grayslake for about 22 years. The family has volunteered their time, including with youth organizations for football and cheerleading in addition to lacrosse.
Tim was diagnosed with ALS a year ago. When the diagnosis was revealed later in the year, people immediately stepped up to help, whether it was by sending a kind email or text, or by dropping off meals at the Paust home.
"Honestly, we've never felt alone," said Deb. "People have just come forward in so many ways. They've donated to research. They've made us meals. It's amazing. People really want to do something."
"It means everything to us. We just feel so cared for," said Deb. "It's a very horrible, awful and torturous disease. We try very hard to stay positive. There are times when we're down and our friends, our community, our family—they lift us up."
To see so many people contributing to ALS research provides some hope. Deb said the ALS community is considered a small one, and there isn't a lot of money that goes toward research. The Food and Drug Administration held a hearing Monday in Maryland to give everyone from caregivers to patients to researchers the opportunity to share their stories. Part of Deb's statement was read at the hearing since she wasn't able to attend.
"I felt like my voice was heard," she said. "We need support."
Deb said the message was sent that ALS patients are willing to take risks.
"ALS Progresses so fast. People are dying, or they become ineligible (for trials) because they lose so much function," said Deb. "So, we're really hopeful."
Deb encourages people to submit their own comments or statements to the FDA in support of ALS patients.
"The hope is that with a big enough response, the FDA will expedite their process for ALS clinical trials and possible treatments since ALS progresses rapidly and patients do not have time to wait with the current process," Deb said. Comments and statements will be accepted until March 25, she said.
Editor's Note: This story has been changed to reflect that Brad Fish is the coach of the Grayslake North Lacrosse Team. We apologize for the error.