Prior to 2017, I had little to no understanding of what ALS is or how devastating it can be. Sure, I had participated in the Ice Bucket Challenge in August 2014, but I didn’t really understand what it was all about. Like many others, I was blissfully unaware.

My stepfather’s first symptom was weakness in his right hand. I’ll never forget watching him sit at a table with my daughter and seeing him struggle to turn the page of the book they were reading. It didn’t take long for the doctors at our local VA Hospital to put the pieces together. My mom called me after one of their first appointments, “They think it’s ALS.” I was still blissfully unaware. I hung up with my mom and thought that they would come home with a few prescriptions and a plan of action. My stepdad was a healthy, strong man. He would beat ALS, whatever it was.

A quick Google search would show me just how wrong I was. The first things that popped up were “no cure” and “100% fatal.” My world was changed from that moment on. Over the next year, my family would watch helplessly as ALS turned my vibrant stepdad into a shell of himself. His progression was quick and unrelenting, each day presenting new challenges and changes to our world. On February 2, 2018, my stepdad passed year to the day from when the doctors introduced the possibility of ALS into our world.

Seeing what ALS can do has turned me into an outspoken advocate for awareness. Since becoming more outspoken, I have met so many amazing people that have inspired me to step up and do whatever it takes to keep the fight for a cure moving forward.

Recently I have been working hard to put together an awareness/fundraising event in my area of Pensacola, Florida called Cocktails for a Cure on May 9, 2019. This event is designed to bring much-needed awareness to my area and raise funds to help in the fight for a cure through a night of live music, raffles, and fun. It all starts with awareness, and that won’t happen unless someone steps up. I’m stepping up.

- Mandi

To purchase a ticket to Cocktails for a Cure or to donate click here.