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Dinner planned to celebrate man with ALS, fund home renovations

Alissa Widman Neese • Jan 19, 2013 at 5:10 AM

"Everything happens for a reason," reads her gleaming silver bracelet — a phrase the Storer family has earnestly embraced during a year of challenges.

Laurie's still searching for the reason her husband is battling a fatal illness that's stripping him of his strength and independence.

But she's confident it's out there, with something positive as the end result.

"Maybe someday we'll know why this horrible thing had to happen," said Laurie, 47. "But for now, we're not going to be sad. We're living in the moment."

Brad Storer, 50, formerly the director of Erie County Care Facility, was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis last April.

The degenerative disease — also called ALS, or Lou Gehrig's disease — causes a person's muscles to stop taking orders from nerves, until the person is completely paralyzed. It typically shortens a lifespan to within five years or less.

On first glance, Brad's appearance hasn't changed much since the day of his diagnosis.

But previously effortless tasks like cooking, walking, lifting objects and getting dressed are quickly becoming exhausting as his muscles wear out.

"Sometimes I feel like I'm having a wrestling match in my shirt," Brad said, laughing. "The other day it had me in a full nelson."

The Storers and their children — Abbey, 18, and Adam, 16 — agree it's OK to continue laughing and smiling as Brad battles his illness. 

They celebrate and appreciate the time they have together, Laurie said, whether they're taking a road trip with Abbey to her University of Akron dorm or watching Adam complete a touchdown pass for Huron's junior varsity football team.

They're upfront and honest about their emotions and concerns, but they never dwell on them, Brad said.

"I'm not really angry because there's no one to blame," he said. "If I live for five years, I don't want everyone to act like I'm dead for five years."

The family's positive attitude and determined spirit has attracted attention across Northern Ohio from individuals eager to help.

Erie County Care Facility employees and Laurie's coworkers at Firelands Regional Medical Center are currently coordinating the largest fundraiser to date to help the Storers.

They plan to pack the care facility with hundreds of people Feb. 2 for a spaghetti dinner and silent auction — a way to give back to a family that has given so much to the local community, said Pam Nims, a nurse at Firelands.

"They spent their lives helping people," Nims said. "Now it's our turn to help them."

Brad can no longer work or drive a car. Soon he won't even be able to climb the stairs in his home.

Any money collected at the fundraiser will help the Storers convert a first-floor half-bathroom into a handicap-accessible full bathroom. A nearby computer room will eventually become Brad's new bedroom.

"He'll be able to use it every day and it will be a constant reminder of how much people care," Laurie said.

But to the Storers, the fundraiser really isn't about the money, or even the downstairs renovations.

"We just can't wait to have everyone who's helped us under one roof," Brad said. "In a situation where you feel like you can't do anything, they're doing something huge."


Want to help?

What: Spaghetti dinner fundraiser for Brad Storer, former Erie County Care Facility director battling Lou Gehrig's disease

When: Feb. 2, 4-8 p.m.

Where: Erie County Care Facility

Cost: $10 for adults, $7 for children

For more information or to donate money or items for a silent auction, call Jennifer Sherer at 419-656-6125, or Terry Payne at 419-366-8775.

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