My mother, Sandra Gaffney, was not your typical person with ALS; living for over 30 years with the disease and remaining furiously independent until the day she died. She really taught me about living life to the fullest and how to cope with challenges.
My mom had volunteers that helped her with numerous things while she lived with ALS. This allowed me to be a daughter and for us to have fun and enjoy our time together. She had wonderful friendships with her volunteers. Seeing how the program worked and wanting the Volunteer Program to remain strong inspired my family to create a Promise Fund in my mother’s memory.
One volunteer, in particular, Lourdes McGovern, not only provided help, but was a person she could turn to for support. Although it was written before she passed, we wanted to share an excerpt of both Lourdes and my mom talking about their kinship that formed over the course of Saturday afternoons. What began as a volunteer helping out a few hours a week, turned into a special bond and friendship that would last a lifetime.
"My husband, Paul McGovern, had ALS for eight years. A few years after he died, I responded to The ALS Association’s invitation to volunteer helping other people with ALS (PALS). I had the experience of knowing the daily life, practical implications of living with someone who has ALS. I could help, in a small measure, to make life easier for another PALS.
On a Saturday afternoon in June 2006, I met Sandra Gaffney for the first time. Since then, I have come to visit her twice a month. I help Sandra with her correspondence, organize papers, a photo album, clothes, sewing, etc. I enjoy listening to Sandra as she talks about her grandchildren and the many and varied activities in her life. We have become friends.
Volunteering is a two-way relationship. It is a pleasure to visit my friend Sandra and also have the satisfaction of doing small things that make her day a little better. Sandra says, “I appreciate the help Lourdes gives me. Our time together is just precious.” And this enriches my life immensely!"
Sandra Serkin Gaffney
"I came to benefit from the Volunteer Program at The ALS Association, Minnesota Chapter late in my life with ALS. My diagnosis was in 1980, long before we had a Minnesota Chapter.
Although the use of my hands and arms is limited, I try to take care of as much of my business without the help of my daughters so that we can enjoy family time. To help me do this, The ALS Association provided a wonderful volunteer, Lourdes McGovern. She comes every other Saturday afternoon and spends three hours helping me write letters, sew labels in clothing, read mail, and other hands-on tasks. We both have two daughters which makes us feel a special kinship. Both of us look forward to our time together.
It is difficult for those of us with ALS to ask for help of any kind. It’s a reminder of how our bodies are failing us. The reality is that we do need help no matter how independent we feel. The Volunteer Program can provide some much needed relief for families and care-givers while adding a rich relationship for the person with ALS. I know it has for me!"