By Michael Gutwig, Editor & Manager
Longtime Machinists Lodge 63 member Sam Beekman put together a four-man team of ALS patients to help raise awareness about the disease. They did it by riding their wheelchairs 175 miles from Timberline Lodge on Mt. Hood to the promenade in Seaside on the Oregon coast.
Initially, the idea was to enter a team in the popular Hood to Coast Relay, an annual event that Beekman and the Machinists Union — The Fighting Machinists — participated in for more than a decade starting in the mid-’90s. Race officials, however, worried about their safety, so the plan was nixed.
Beekman and his friend Brian Epp, who also has ALS, came up with Plan ‘B’ — wait until a few weeks after the Hood to Coast Relay, and do it on their own. So, at 9 a.m. on Sept. 25, Beekman and Epps set out from Timberline Lodge for the first of nine legs of the “non-sanctioned” ALS Hood to Coast relay. Two other ALS patients and more than a half dozen supporters joined them on the route, which was similar to that of the Hood to Coast relay. Twenty-nine hours later the team was celebrating in Seaside.
Their conquest was picked up by a local television station, and Beekman received donations from his union and former co-workers and managers at Boeing totaling $3,100. All together, Beekman raised $11,613.81. He applied the donations to his team, “Come What May” in the sanctioned Southwest Washington Walk to Defeat ALS, held Oct. 3 in Vancouver. The team raised $12,303.81.
Often referred to as Lou Gehrig’s Disease, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) is a progressive, fatal neuromuscular disease that slowly robs the body of its ability to walk, speak, swallow and breathe. The life expectancy of an ALS patient averages 2 to 5 years from the time of diagnosis.