Special to Farmers Forum
STRATFORD — When stories are written about important people in various publications, a writer sometimes doesn’t always know where the story might lead.
This is a good-hearted story about a friend of mine and his journey through life the last number of years battling ALS (Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis), commonly known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, named after a famous baseball player who was diagnosed with it. The disease causes loss of muscle control and gets worse over time.
Neil McPhee, who is an inspiration to all who meet him, was in need of a new wheelchair as his disease progressed. His original chair had outlived its usefulness and had seen better days.
In a previously published story, the Perth County resident revealed that after eight years of living with the debilitating disease, he had outlived most others who had been diagnosed with ALS.
So not to repeat the previous story published last September, this story gets better.
Mike and Kathy Kerrigan and family are hog farmers from near Glencoe in Middlesex County, who read about Neil’s journey, and wanted to help financially. They felt it wasn’t an option for them not to help out. It was something they felt in their hearts they just had to do.
Through various channels, Mike was able to get in contact with Neil and sent him a cheque for $2,000 to help in buying the new wheelchair he so desperately needed.
Mike said even before he finished reading the story in the farm publication, that he wanted to do something to help Neil out. It was just something they could do. And he says it felt good donating to the cause.
This story rang true to them, since they had a family friend from Alvinston who had been diagnosed with ALS at the age of 30 and had struggled with the incurable disease for four years until he passed away. Once he read about Neil’s journey, Mike felt compelled to help in some way financially.
This story has another chapter.
At the recent Ontario Pork Congress in Stratford, Mike Kerrigan and his son, Joe, journeyed to the festival city and arranged to meet with Neil and his wife Kim. Up until that time the two had only met through emails.
With emotions running high and tears rolling down their cheeks, Neil and Kim were presented with another cheque for $2,000 from the Kerrigan family who felt compelled to help in getting the new $35,000 wheel chair paid for.
In a previous email, Neil had communicated with the Kerrigans that he and his wife Kim, were in the process of trying to acquire an ALS friendly wheelchair, and said it was a shockingly expensive awakening. But with funding and family help, they were almost there and the gift from the Kerrigans was the one that put the chair within their reach.
Neil and Kim say they share the story of their experience whenever they can, to remind people that goodness still does exist in this world, with newly found friends like the Kerrigans.
As in the original story, Neil is quoted as saying, “not having a ‘will’ because he didn’t have much, but has another kind of ‘will’ and a strong one, and if he can find a way he ‘Will.’”
Thanks to the caring Kerrigans, that ‘will’ to live is stronger than ever!