What Is Team GarBear?

Team GarBear is the community that has risen up in support of Gary and his family as they spread awareness and fight to live life with ALS.

Gary's Story

On August 27, 2016, Gary had his entire life in front of him. In a national forest outside of Denver, he gathered with those closest to him to marry the love of his life. Guests contributed to the three-day, camp-inspired celebration in any way they could, whether it was preparing an Indian feast for the reception, making dreamcatcher decorations, singing Van Morrison at the ceremony, preparing group meals by the fire, or conducting yoga. In a clearing in the woods, lovingly decorated by their friends and family, they read their vows to one another– promising to support each other, for better or for worse... But nothing could prepare them for just how much worse things would soon become.

On December 17, a few short months after the wedding, Gary was diagnosed with ALS. A deluge of tests and misdiagnoses had reached a devastating finality. For months before the wedding, Gary had experienced strange symptoms— minor twitching, weakness in the hands, choking, voice changes. Only those closest to him noticed, though most, including his doctors, attributed the occurrences to stress. He was about to get married, had bought a new home, and had plenty of triggers to cause such a reaction. But as the months drew on, the symptoms got worse, and it was clear there was more than merely stress or a pinched nerve at play.

Home alone one night, Gary's new wife Katie sat in bed binging the docuseries VICE. Around midnight she considered turning in, but decided to watch one last episode, "Die Trying" a look inside the lives of people diagnosed with ALS. Ten minutes into the show, she knew. The way his hands looked; the sound of his voice. Frantic, she researched the best ALS doctors in Denver and made an appointment for Gary. After multiple MRIs and thousands of dollars in medical bills later, they finally received the devastating confirmation.

For those unfamiliar, ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig's disease, affects the motor neurons in a person's brain and spinal cord, causing muscles to rapidly waste away. ALS patients don't, however, experience any deterioration of the mind, and instead must endure remaining totally aware as the disease robs them of all bodily functions. Unfortunately, after only a few months after diagnosis, Gary is already experiencing major deterioration in his speech, his ability to walk and even simply buttoning his clothes. While there's hope for treatment and remission for those suffering with cancer, there is no stopping ALS. Once it hits it keeps progressing until the person afflicted is paralyzed and unable to communicate entirely. The life expectancy is 2-5 years.

Refusing to wallow in devastation, Gary is doing the only thing he can do— live. His profound ability to confront such tragic circumstances daily and still find the positivity, light, and laughter in life is an inspiration. His will to experience as much as he can while he's still mobile is not only a testament to his strength and courage, but serves as a reminder to us all: life as you know it can be taken from you in an instant; nothing gold can stay. Being present and living life to the fullest should not simply be elusive concepts by which we hope to live, but rather a practiced doctrine at work in our lives.

For Gary, what should have been the beginning of his life as a husband, homeowner, and dog dad, has now turned into a terrifying reality. Every day he must overcome a new struggle and adjust his routine accordingly. Gary already needs help doing even the simplest of tasks, whether it's opening a jar, brushing his hair, or getting dressed. And the nightmare only continues. Soon, Gary will be wheelchair bound. He will require the care of an in-home nurse to assist his wife in making sure his needs are met. His medical bills will continue to pile up. He'll no longer be able to walk, speak, and even breathe without assistance.

Although we can't do anything to reverse the course of this unfair outcome and give Gary the life he deserves back, we can attempt to make the time he has left a little more comfortable. Just as his friends and family banded together to make his wedding day the magical celebration of love and life that it was, we now ask that you come together to ensure that he can live out the rest of his life in dignity and at peace.

If you're in a position to give, please do so by clicking donate. If you're not in a position to give, Gary will also be taking donations from companies for an upcoming benefit in his honor. Volunteer opportunities will soon be available as the inevitable need for constant care arises. Your compassion and generosity are greatly appreciated.

Living With ALS

(News & Updates)

SUPPORT GARBEAR

What Is ALS?

(Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis)

Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), sometimes called Lou Gehrig's disease, is a rapidly progressive neurodegenerative disease that is 100% fatal. ALS attacks the nerve cells (neurons) responsible for controlling voluntary muscles (muscle action we are able to control, such as those in the arms, legs, and face). The disease belongs to a group of disorders known as motor neuron diseases, which are characterized by the gradual degeneration and death of motor neurons.

Motor neurons are nerve cells located in the brain, brain stem, and spinal cord that serve as controlling units and vital communication links between the nervous system and the voluntary muscles of the body. Messages from motor neurons in the brain (called upper motor neurons) are transmitted to motor neurons in the spinal cord (called lower motor neurons) and from them to particular muscles. In ALS, both the upper motor neurons and the lower motor neurons degenerate or die, and stop sending messages to muscles. Unable to function, the muscles gradually weaken, waste away (atrophy), and have very fine twitches (called fasciculations). Eventually, the ability of the brain to start and control voluntary movement is lost.

ALS causes weakness with a wide range of disabilities. Eventually, all muscles under voluntary control are affected, and individuals lose their strength and the ability to move their arms, legs, and body. When muscles in the diaphragm and chest wall fail, people lose the ability to breathe without ventilatory support.  50% of patients with ALS die from respiratory failure, usually within 3 to 5 years from the onset of symptoms.

How You Can Help

The compassion Gary has received from his friends and family during this difficult time has been immensely appreciated. While words of positivity and love go a long way as he adjusts to his new reality, what Gary also needs are donations to help pay for home adjustments, medical equipment and appointments as his condition progresses. In addition to donations, on-site support to help his family care for Gary will also be needed. Friends are encouraged to sign up and volunteer, even if it's just making dinner or spending time with Gary when his family can't be there with him. It takes an army. You can also help make a difference by coordinating a benefit or event in Gary's honor to raise money for his family, educate others on ALS, and help find a cure. Whether your donation is monetary or time, every little bit helps.

Donate

ALS is associated with high costs not covered by health insurance. Some of the anticipated needs include, but are not limited to, home renovations, adaptive equipment, as well as travel to Mayo Clinic. Donations can help Gary and his family ease the financial struggle they will face to keep him as comfortable as possible through this disease.

Volunteer

As Gary's mobility decreases he'll require more help with everyday chores and activities. Mowing the lawn, grocery shopping, folding laundry, etc. all take time, of which Gary is limited. If you have some free time to spare and feel like lending a hand, check the calendar at the link below and sign up. The smallest effort will go a long way.

Benefit

Have an idea for a benefit or event? Do you work for or know someone that can donate products and or services to benefit Gary? With help from friends and family Team GarBear will spread awareness and fight to find a cure to end ALS while helping Gary and his family enjoy a longer quality of life together.

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