With only about four weeks' preparation, North Barrington resident Paul Launer's Iron Horse Brigade was the largest team and most successful fundraiser among approximately 200 entries at last month's Les Turner ALS Foundation Walk For Life at Soldier Field.
In fact, the team was the second most successful ever when it came to raising funds since the annual event began in 2002, Paul's wife Kris said.
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The Iron Horse Brigade boasted 175 members and brought in $77,000 for the Les Turner Foundation.
Paul Launer was diagnosed with ALS in June 2011 and his Barrington-area community has been rallying around him and his family ever since.
But Kris Launer attributes much of the success of the team to friends Sue Randall, who organized it very, very quickly, and Vince and Pat Foglia, who contributed $40,000 to the $37,000 other members of the team were able to raise.
The Launers themselves have been active members of community fundraisers in the past, but are getting a different perspective these days on how important such help can be.
"When you've never been on the receiving end of that much love and support, it means so much," Kris said. "Paul was thrilled."
Though Paul's gradual loss of abilities has been challenging, smaller fundraisers and the ability to teach about ALS at North Barrington School, where daughters Aubrey and Sarah attend, have been rewarding, Kris said. Some kids have offered money they've made from lemonade stands to the Launers' Walk For Life team.
"I cry when I think about it," Kris said.
But the standard of grace and dignity family and friends have shown throughout the past two years has been set by Paul himself, who hopes to see the cause of ALS identified during his lifetime, Kris said.
"I don't know how Paul does it," Kris marveled of her husband. "I've never once heard him complain or ask 'Why me?'"