Local family pulls community together to find cure for ALS
by Mariko Lamb
Published - 01/11/13 - 12:54 PM | 13680 views | 0 0 comments | 13 13 recommendations | email to a friend | print
The Constans family from left, John, Elise, Ashley and Lin. Courtesy photo
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In July 2011, the close-knit Constans family’s world was shaken when they discovered that John Constans — father to two grown daughters, Ashley and Elise, and husband to their mother, Lin — was diagnosed with ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis), a terminal neurodegenerative disease that is more commonly known as Lou Gehrig’s disease.

The chilling motor neuron disease is one that leads to the rapid degeneration of nerve cells, muscle strength and motor function. Although the disease does not typically affect a person’s senses or impair one’s mind, the disease invariably results in a premature death several years after the onslaught of noticeable symptoms. The debilitating disease — one that affects approximately 30,000 Americans each day — is one with no known cause and no known cure.

“Both my parents were in absolute shock when they found out the news. They had three different opinions, all of which had the same horrible diagnosis,” said Ashley. “We were devastated.”

John, a former Navy pilot and retired captain with U.S. Airways, has always embraced the positive aspects of any given situation by his casual, fun-loving approach to life.

“Many times, we resort to humor, as that has always been something my family has been able to rally with in difficult times,” she said. “Through everything, he is still such a funny guy, so that has made everything a little easier.”

The frustrations of engaging in what once were effortless daily activities and performing seemingly straightforward motor control functions are no longer the simple tasks they once were, however.

“He has lost so much control over his body and is unable to do things that he was once able to. Even the simplest things like writing have become difficult for him. However, we never give up hope,” said Ashley. “The four of us are such a close family. When one of us is down, we can always rely on one another to pick us back up. This is no different with my dad’s battle.”

Although there is never a day like the one before, the Constans family has redefined the daily norm, adjusting their lives to accommodate John’s ever-changing needs.

“ALS is a community disease. Once a person is diagnosed, it quickly becomes not just their disease, but the disease of a family and those who support them,” Ashley said. “Though it is not a well-known disease, it is probably one of the worst diseases one could be diagnosed with.”

One of the many things John Constans will undoubtedly bequeath as a legacy to his daughters is his entrenched sense of what it takes to be successful and his steadfast approach to finding happiness in life no matter the circumstances. These traits are ones that have already been proven to exist in his daughters, exemplified by their own personal achievements.

Ashley, the director of operations at an event production company, Redfearn & Associates, is using her expertise in the field of event production to proactively channel her emotions and energy for the betterment of those battling ALS.

“My partner and I wanted to find a way we could use what we do to help raise money for research, as well as awareness about ALS and its devastating consequences,” she said. “We rallied all the people we rely on to make our own business successful and asked them to help us out to make this event both very special and very fun.”

The result: an upcoming fundraiser, “Flying for a Cure,” on Jan. 19 to celebrate John’s life and successes, while also helping to raise funds for Team Godfather, a nonprofit foundation dedicated to raising charitable funds to find a cure for ALS.

“My hope is that through this event, as well as other Team Godfather events, we can help raise money to fund ALS TDI (Therapy Development Institute), the research facility Team Godfather sends some of its funding to, to help find a cause and cure for this horrific disease, as well as raise awareness in the San Diego community,” she said. “Patients and families who first get this news should know they are not alone. Though the future may look dark, so many people in San Diego want to help and there are resources that are here for them.”

Flying for a Cure will take place at 5:30 p.m. at the Hyatt Regency La Jolla Aventine, located at 3777 La Jolla Village Drive. The evening will feature a high-quality array of silent and live auction items, including one of the largest signed guitar collections available in San Diego’s history, a cocktail happy hour reception with sumptuous bites from local caterers and restaurateurs, and a special performance by the Paul Cannon Band and a surprise internationally acclaimed musical guest.

“We hope through this event and other Team Godfather events that our community will rally together to help us find a cause and cure for ALS,” said Ashley. “We will beat this one day.”

Tickets are $250 per person or $2,500 for a table of 10 with VIP meet-and-greet opportunities with the musical guests. To purchase tickets, visit www.teamgodfather.org or call (760) 436-8809.

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