The numbers are staggering.
Twenty-one members of their family tree lost to ALS, aka Lou Gehrig’s disease.
Most dear to their hearts are their mother, Jan Monier, grandfather, Mick Payne, and uncle, Jeff Payne, all taken by the dreaded disease, which has no cure.
It’s as personal as personal can get.
When the Walnut 5K Run/Walk for ALS was in need of a new director this year, the four Monier siblings were all in.
“It’s dear to our family, but I can name four families in Walnut who have been impacted,” said Brad Monier, whose cousin Jeremy Monier, lost his wife Tammy to ALS.
“There’s multiple families that have impacted in such a small community. That’s why it’s got the support it has raising over $80,000 the past nine years and we’re hoping to continue to build on that.”
Monier, 34, his siblings, Kristie Cady, 36, Hillary, 31, and Jordan, 26, all have stepped in to take over the reigns from Julie Von Holten as co-race directors.
“Julie did a wonderful job,” said Brad, who is a sixth-grade math teacher in Geneseo, and coaches middle school sports as well the defensive backs for the Maple Leafs football team. “She had kids who were runners and just had an interest to give back and support Walnut families.”
When it comes to helping one another, Brad said it’s a small-town pride thing in Walnut.
“To raise those kind of funds obviously takes a lot of community support,” he said. “Every year, we have a lot of the same faces, same names over and over, but there’s always new ones coming from near and far to support the cause and do what they can.
“When someone goes down, everyone feels it. In a small town there’s a lot of connections. You walk into the gas station and know everyone you see. It’s incredible to get the support every year. It’d be easy for people to say, ‘Oh, I donated to that last year,’ but every year, people keep showing up and giving to a good cause.”
Monier said ALS gained more attention recently when Major League Baseball held a “Lou Gehrig Day” league wide to honor the disease’s most famous face. But there’s much more to do, he said.
“That was awesome, but I still think there’s a lot of people out there probably who have no idea that ALS is the same thing as Lou Gehrig’s disease or if you have it, what exactly is it or what does it do,” he said.
“We just want to continue awareness and keep trying to fund research towards it. It’s one of those diseases that there’s not a lot out there and it’s been around for how long time? It’s still a terminal disease. Obviously, more work needs to be done. We hope we can help change that outcome or diagnosis or provide hope or some way to slow it down.”
Jan Monier was just 59 when she lost her battle to ALS in 2013. She was the No. 1 fan for all her kids and continued to attend games and cheer them and their teammates on.
“What everyone remembers about mom was she was everyone’s fan and everyone’s supporter. She was a second mom to a lot kids that wore Navy and Columbia,” Brad said.
The memory of getting a phone call from his dad, Don, letting him know he better get home quickly to see his mom one last time, and speeding home from Geneseo, will forever be etched in Brad’s mind.
There are two kinds of ALS — sporadic, which is much more common, and is not hereditary, and familial, which is hereditary and the type that runs through the Monier family.
In most people with familial ALS, their children have a 50-50 chance of developing the disease.
The Monier 4 will continue the good fight against ALS, just how their mother did until her last breath.
“Mom was a fighter and now it’s our turn to fight in a different way,” Brad said.
And they won’t be alone. As of Monday, there were 350 runners signed up, on pace for another run of 500 by race day.
You can support this good cause, even if you don’t run. One contributor has been Cubs TV play-by-play guy Jon “Boog” Sciambi, who came across the cause through Twitter.
Kevin Hieronymus has been the BCR Sports Editor since 1986. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.