Talking about his dad’s ALS diagnosis, Connor Stratton, 17, says, “It’s a hard thing to understand at times, but it’s good to try to look at the bright side because my dad still has his spirits up. He’s still happy around us, and that’s something that reflects on all of us.”

Kerry Stratton, a well-known classical music host on The New Classical FM and conductor with the Toronto Concert Orchestra, has had to take a step back from his work. Diagnosed with ALS in 2018, Kerry is determined to continue working as long as possible with his family around him to help support his wish.  He is no longer hosting his live radio show, but with Connor’s help, his weekly program, Conductor’s Choice, has continued to air. “My dad’s still doing his radio show from our house. We don’t know how long his voice will last. I hope for a long time, but for now, the fact that he’s still working from his wheelchair is really great.”

Kerry Stratton with his family

Living with the knowledge of his father’s terminal illness is not easy for Connor. It is hard to put into words everything that is going on, but, like his father, he is finding inner courage to stay positive. Connor remembers the day his father shared the news of his diagnosis with the family. “I remember exactly,” he says. “It was at dinnertime on Sunday, September 2, 2018, two days before I was going to see Ozzie Osbourne in concert.” Connor shares a passion for music with his dad, although his own preference is heavy metal. Reading about ALS, Connor came across the story of heavy metal musician and songwriter, Jason Becker. Jason was diagnosed with ALS in 1990 at the age of 19 and he still composes music with the use of specialized eye gaze technology that allows him to type using only his eyes. For Connor, it is a story that offers inspiration and hope.

Kerry Stratton embodies a spirit of resilience. Conducting a recent performance of Carnival of the Animals composed by Camille Saint-Saens, he announced, “I have ALS – but ALS does not have me.” Connor repeats the phrase twice, slowly, for emphasis, because these words capture his dad’s approach to the disease.

As a family, the Stratton’s are looking for ways to find and give support. Connor, his mom Elizabeth, his sister Sarajane, his brother Nick and Nick’s wife Emily, will be gathering donations and participating in the York region Walk to End ALS on June 2nd, 2019. This will be their first time at the annual event so Connor isn’t sure what to expect, but he is open to seeing what it is all about.  “To get the support of so many people,” he reflects, “that’s a good feeling.”

Kerry Stratton at the Flato Markham Theatre Performing Arts Awards, Sept 18, 2018

Recently, Sarah McGuire, ALS Canada’s Regional Manager who provides community-based support to the Strattons and other families living with ALS, helped Connor organize a raffle and an assembly at his high school where Kerry spoke first-hand about what it is like to live with ALS. Local efforts like these, and major, nationwide initiatives like the Walk to End ALS continue to raise awareness about ALS so that more investment can be directed toward research, advocacy, and community-based support.

Connor and his family, like the families of 3,000 Canadians living with ALS today, are counting on all of us. A future without ALS is within reach. This is the message we must broadcast loud and clear.

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