Brian Bower has always been passionate about sports. Above all, he is an ardent fisherman, known on occasion to snatch 15 minutes from his day for the joy of casting a line in one of the abundant waterways in and around Welland, where he lives.

Brian also loves soccer, tennis, lacrosse, hockey and baseball. An avid baseball fan, he knows the story of baseball legend, Lou Gehrig. He never imagined he too, would be diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or Lou Gehrig’s disease, as it is still commonly known. That news came as a complete shock.

Brian and Michelle Bower

Today, Brian takes inspiration from his greatest sports hero, Steve Gleason. A former professional American football player with the New Orleans Saints, Gleason was diagnosed with ALS in 2011. He has been advocating for the ALS community in the United States ever since, leading the charge for innovative assistive technology, including a challenge he presented to Microsoft to create a way for people to navigate their wheelchairs with their eyes.

When Steve Gleason was diagnosed, he famously said there will be “no white flags.” Brian Bower is adopting the same positive attitude. “Once I started following his journey,” says Brian, “I saw myself as trying to emulate what he’s doing here in Canada. I have a dream to create the most ALS awareness out there.”

“I’m in the early stages. I’ll start small,” says Brian. “We’ll see where we can take it from here.” For now, he and his team – Team Bower – are fundraising to support ALS research and community-based support services for people living with this devastating, terminal disease.

The Walk to End ALS in Niagara region takes place on June 8, 2019, the same day Brian’s daughter, Laurissa, is due with her first child. This will be Brian’s first time participating in the annual event. He is hoping to have a team of 50 walkers in place, each wearing the bright orange t-shirt his employer, Home Depot, offered to purchase to support Brian’s initiative. “We’re going to be one sharp-looking team,” he promises.

Brian is now experiencing slurred speech and muscle weakness on his left side, but he is intending to finish the 5km Walk. He is also looking forward to making new connections. “I’ve always had a heightened awareness around people with struggles, but so far, I’ve had very little interaction with people living with ALS. I want to walk in solidarity with others while I continue to embrace my disease,” he explains.

Brian has always connected with people in need. In his words, “championing the underdog” and “respect for all people” are two values Brian tries to embrace every day. “During my career with Home Depot, I always admired people trying to overcome major obstacles. I tried to give special consideration when hiring someone new because everyone deserves a chance. It’s also why I’ve always been involved in community fundraising events.”

Now that Brian faces his own physical challenges, he continues to look for the small moments of connection, even if it means learning to adapt. “It’s about to get real,” says Brian, but that does not stop him from staying positive. Recently, on a dinner date with his wife in a fancy restaurant, Brian noticed an older couple sitting at the next table. The woman was paralyzed and seated in a wheelchair. “What was inspiring to me,” says Brian, “is that they were sharing a bottle of wine. She was drinking out of a straw in a glass. I could see this couple continuing with their life and continuing to enjoy each other.”

Brian is undaunted. His mission is to continue to raise awareness about ALS. “It’s so important to raise money and spread the word so more people learn about this debilitating disease. That way, other people might not be so afraid to approach someone with ALS and connect and see something positive. It’s not all doom and gloom,” he says. “We have lots to live for.”

The Walk to End ALS takes place in over 90 communities across Canada until September 2019. Register or donate to a Walk to End ALS near you at www.walktoendals.ca.

Your fundraising efforts and generous donations support the best ALS research in the country and enable ALS Canada to provide community-based support to people and families living with the disease in Ontario. Donations for all Walk to End ALS events are being accepted until December 31, 2019.

Posted in: Advocacy