Peter Wiehler was surrounded by the community of Agassiz last Saturday

Agassiz ALS walk tops fundraising goal

Agassiz paramedic honoured at first fundraising event

The entire community wrapped its arms around one of its own this Saturday, showing the love for a long-time paramedic who is living with an incurable disease.

Peter Wiehler was diagnosed with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) last year, a devastating disease that attacks motor neurons in the brain and spinal cord, affecting voluntary muscles.

News of the diagnosis spread quickly about the well-loved man, father and grandfather, who has worked for 30 years with the BC Ambulance Service, as the family started to adjust to the rapidly progressing disease.

Deanna Edmondson, who shares a grandson with Wiehler and his wife Sharon, had heard of the work that the ALS Society is doing to fight the disease through research funding, patient support and education. She knew that she had to do something. So, she organized Agassiz’s first Walk for ALS, and relentlessly asked for donations of all kinds, to help make the event a success.

It all culminated on Saturday, when about 200 people poured into the gardened patio area of Heritage House Coffee, who donated their space as the walk’s headquarters.

“I was born and raised here, and I have never been as proud of the community as I am now,” Wendy Toyer, Executive Director ALS Society of BC &Yukon said.

Proud of the turnout, but also of the amount raised for the ALS Society.

On Tuesday, donations were still rolling in, but were at $13,623.50, easily topping the original goal of $10,000. And because of the generous donations from the community in the form of food, refreshments, supplies and advertising, every single penny will go toward the society.

“The ALS Society gives organizers seed money for things you might need to buy,” Edmondson said. “Well, I didn’t have to cash my cheque, and Wendy has said that has never happened. Everyone donated everything.”

The cheque, worth $1,000, means phenomenal support from the community. The AESS band played live music, as did Andrew Putt. Pastor Jim Flom spoke to the crowd and led a prayer.

“Thanks, Pete,” Flom said to Wiehler, who watched on with a smile and a tear in his eye. “You helped everyone in the community, and you helped me when I was down and now I want to help you.”

Wiehler’s long history as an emergency responder in the area means he has likely saved the lives of many of his neighbours. And to commemorate his time with the BC Ambulance Service, he was awarded with his 30 Year Award, along with plenty of hugs and kind words from his co-workers.

Part of the money raised came from the Agassiz Fire Department’s annual golf tournament. Fire Chief Wayne Dyer presented Edmondson with a cheque for $2,000.

Before the walk got on its way, the Wiehlers and Edmondsons gathered to release several purple balloons into the air.

Emergency workers all took part in the walk, on foot and in their emergency vehicles.

While the inspiration for holding the walk in Agassiz can be traced back to Wiehler, he is one of about 3,000 Canadians who are living with ALS at any moment, including others in the Upper Fraser Valley.

Edmondson said she is looking forward to planning the same event for next year.

Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis – ALS, sometimes referred to as Lou Gehrig’s disease- is a devastating terminal disease that destroys the voluntary muscles of the body, and rarely affects the senses. ALS can happen to anyone at anytime.

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