The annual “Make a Difference for ALS” Walk/Run event was held Saturday, July 20 in Roseau. This marks the twentieth anniversary of this fundraiser, and over the past 20 years this ALS Committee has raised a remarkable amount of money for the fight against this disease, with this year’s event raising over $40,000 for the ALS Association. ALS – Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, commonly known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, is a neurodegenerative disease characterized by the death of motor neurons in the brain and spinal cord, resulting in the progressive wasting away of voluntary muscles. At this time, there is no known cure for the disease and an estimated 30,000 people in the US are living with ALS at any given time.
Border State Bank has proudly been a sponsor for the ALS Walk for many years, but this year the walk took on a more personal meaning as one of their former employees, Kris Jenson, was one of the Honoree’s of this event. A second Honoree was Father Don Braukmann, former priest serving Blessed Sacrament of Greenbush from 1996-2004, and most recently in Bemidji.
Father Don Braukman was diagnosed with ALS in December 2017, and traveled this ALS health journey with dignity and grace, which is documented in his speaking and his writings. Father Don sadly passed away July 18, 2019, just two days prior to this event. Many in our area are mourning this loss, but celebrating his life. His niece recently published a book compiling many of Father Don’s writings entitled “…and He Took Flesh.”
The event also recognizes those who have passed away from the disease in the Roseau County area, which includes Richard “Dick” Novacek. His team, led by son Neil Novacek, was the highest fundraiser for this year’s event. This cause has become very near and dear to Neil’s heart after watching his father’s battle.
Kris Jenson’s journey with ALS is one that started fairly recently. Over the past year and a half, Kris has been to various doctors and specialists with the hope of finding the root cause to many of her symptoms including speech impairment, muscle weakness, etc. In December 2018 due to her declining health, she retired from Border State Bank after being a loyal employee for over 25 years. In early 2019, a specialist diagnosed her with the life-altering disease – ALS. The last few months have included the start of an infusion treatment, and continued OT and PT therapy at her home near Badger.
Former Border State Bank supervisor Sharla Kilen states, “ Kris is one of the strongest and most dedicated women I know, and to see her health decline has been very tough, but we know she’s a fighter! We were humbled to be able to honor her and her family at the ALS event.”
Lynette Gustafson, another co-worker and attendee at the ALS Event shares, “Being here to honor Kris was an easy decision. Kris has always been a ‘real person’ for me – she works hard, cares deeply and doesn’t judge others. I have high respect for her and am so sad to witness good people be affected by a terrible disease.”
As a visual show of support, co-workers wore “Team Kris” t-shirts on Friday July 19 at Border State Bank in both Badger and Greenbush. These t-shirts are available for purchase, with proceeds going to Kris. There is a bonfire link that can be found on Facebook, or contact Sharla Kilen for details.
Friends are also working with the Lions group to plan an upcoming benefit, so be on the lookout for more details, and for other ways to help out Kris.
The words on the “Team Kris” t-shirts are Hope, Strength, Love and Support – Fighting ALS Together! Sharla states, “This is the message we want Kris to know – and anyone fighting this disease – that your friends and family are here to walk with you during this journey.”
One can also read this story in the July 24 issue of The Tribune in print or online.