Kelsey Barker describes her dad, Jeff, as her hero. Diagnosed with ALS in February 2018, he has since lost the use of his right arm and is now having difficulty breathing and walking – but ALS has not changed the person he is. “He lights up a room. He is selfless and courageous. He pushes through, no matter what,” says Kelsey.

Kelsey Barker & Family

 

Jeff’s wife, Stacey, and his three children, Kelsey, Kyle and Ciara, worry about him falling, but they understand his desire to keep walking, even if he can only take a few steps at a time. Jeff has already given up driving so he can’t be out on the road making client calls, but that hasn’t stopped him from continuing to work. He knows there is no turning back the clock with ALS and he continues to lift himself out of his wheelchair to embrace what he can still do.

“He lights up a room. He is selfless and courageous. He pushes through, no matter what.”

The Walk to End ALS that took place in Brantford on September 21st had a strong turnout and included Jeff’s team, “Hank’s Heroes” (named after Jeff’s childhood nickname). Jeff has spent his lifetime in the local farming community where “word travels fast,” she explains, and “people are always there to help each other out in times of need.” Now that the extended family was actively fundraising for the Walk to End ALS, friends, family, colleagues, members of Jarvis Lion’s Club all rallied together. “It’s beyond our wildest dreams,” exclaims Kelsey. “We set a team goal of $15k and we’ve surpassed it, raising just shy of $28,000!”

Kelsey Barker at Walk to End ALS Brantford
“Hank’s Heroes,” a team of at least 65 people, came out to support Jeff at the Walk to End ALS in Brantford.

One of the most ardent fundraisers has been Jeff’s mother who, in her 70’s, bought a tablet and created a Facebook account just so she could reach out to potential donors online. “It’s been amazing to see Grandma so high-tech,” explains Kelsey. “She uses a walker but she was so set on completing the Walk, she said she would crawl on her knees if she had to. It makes me cry to think about it.”

Jeff Barker on his scooter

Members of “Hank’s Heroes” are hoping the money raised through the Walk to End ALS will put a dent in the important work of supporting leading ALS research to find a cure and creating a better day-to-day reality for those living with ALS. “At times, you can feel helpless in the face of this cruel and unfair terminal disease,” she admits, “but seeing all that ALS Canada is doing to help gives us hope. We’re so grateful for the support we’ve received including equipment to make my dad more comfortable like a hospital bed and mattress, gel pads, and grab bars. They’ve been absolutely amazing.”

Working as a personal support worker in a long-term care facility, Kelsey has witnessed a lot of pain and suffering, but this is the first time she has come face-to-face with ALS. She is not afraid to talk about the realities of the disease. “I feel like people should know the honest truth,” she says. “That way, people will understand why this is such an urgent appeal for help.”

For now, Kelsey is celebrating Brantford’s fundraising success and looking back on the memories of the Walk. “Dad didn’t feel so alone,” she says. “The event brought us all together. It was a day we will never forget.”


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