In the face of an ALS diagnosis, Don Doan is committed to staying active


On June 15, Don Doan participated in the Walk to End ALS in Brampton for the fourth time. It’s been three years since he was able to walk the course, but his positive outlook hasn’t changed. There are always people around, including his wife, Pam, to help with his wheelchair. “Generally, it’s a fight over who will push me around,” he explains. “It’s a good problem to have.”

Don exercising

Don’s positivity helps him stay focused on what he can still do. A lifelong sports enthusiast, he has participated in 16 marathons, including the Boston Marathon which he completed three times. He didn’t know then that these accomplishments would develop the physical stamina and mental fortitude he would need to face his ALS challenges. Despite the progression of the disease, he continues to exercise every day to stay fit.

When it became too difficult to go to the gym on his scooter, Don arranged to have a recumbent bike installed in the house. He can still transfer independently from his wheelchair on to the bike. On most days, he pedals 20 km and does some light exercises with a dumb bell to keep himself moving while his wife goes out for a walk. “She knows I’m safe,” says Don, “and it’s a chance for Pam to have a break while I do my daily exercise.”

Don coming towards the finish line during the Niagara Falls Marathon, which qualified him for the Boston Marathon

Don’s goal-oriented approach hasn’t changed since his ALS diagnosis in late 2014. He says it’s important for him to continue setting personal goals that are “SMART”- specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and timely – like the fundraising goal he sets for the Walk to End ALS every year. “There’s a sense of pride, a sense of accomplishment in that. Maybe one of the dollars raised will be the one that finds the cure.”

There’s a corollary to his message that Don says is equally important. “You have to celebrate your successes, be they big or small,” On the day of the Walk, Don and 10 or so family members and friends did just that. They gathered at Oscar’s Roadhouse, a local restaurant that sponsored his team, to share a moment of conviviality and community spirit.

In addition to raising money for the Walk to End ALS to help fund ALS research and community-based support and services for people living with ALS in Ontario, Don enjoys connecting with people at the Walks who are sharing the same challenges.  “It helps emotionally to reconnect with people you’ve met in past years,” he says. “I like the chance to catch up with people, and if I meet someone who’s just been diagnosed, I try to give them some helpful tips. There’s so much we can learn from one another.”

Don Doan proudly running in his Canadian shirt during the Boston Marathon

Fundraising for the Walk has also fostered personal connections, new and old. Campaigning for donations on Facebook, Don reconnected with some childhood friends he had not spoken to in years. Two years ago, one friend who now lives in Mexico scheduled a visit to coincide with the Walk so he could be there in person. Compassion, particularly in times of great challenge, and the potential for people to unite in a single cause, is a powerful agent of change. It gives Don hope and helps fuel his optimism.

ALS Canada has provided support for Don and Pam in the form of education and equipment including a scooter, walker and wheelchair, and furthermore, Don says he values the courteous and professional manner of ALS Canada staff whenever he calls with a question. “They don’t rush to get you off the line. They make you feel like you’re the only client they have that day. I know it’s far from the truth but that’s the way they are.”

Asked to sum up Don’s message to donors, he has this to say:

“Thanks for supporting 4,000 reasons to give to the Walk to End ALS; 3,000 Canadians living with ALS today and another 1,000 who will be diagnosed this year.” Let’s keep up the momentum to end ALS!”

Don with his wife Pam

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: Events, Walk To End ALS