Richard Ellis and Dr. Heather Durham are two people who have each been affected by the realities of ALS, but in very different ways. Having witnessed the physical and emotional tolls of the disease, Richard and Heather each decided to leave a gift to ALS Canada in their wills — gifts that will bring hope to people and families living with ALS today and in the future.

Richard Ellis

Two friends hugging and laughing

Richard’s connection to ALS started on the first day of high school when he met his best friend, Cathy Payne. According to Richard, Cathy’s beautiful spirit and desire to squeeze the most joy out of every experience fueled their adolescent adventures and misadventures, as well as long, thoughtful discussions. Throughout university and the early years of their careers, Richard and Cathy remained friends, right up until Cathy passed away from ALS at the age of 40.

“News of her diagnosis came as a complete shock,” says Richard. “I had no idea ALS could affect somebody so young. It was hard to comprehend how her journey would unfold, how she felt and would cope over time, or how I could help.”

Richard committed himself to supporting Cathy and her family throughout her ALS journey, participating in fundraising efforts, lending a hand when needed, listening intently, and spending as much time as he could with his best friend.

“It was both a beautiful and heartbreaking time in my life that I will never forget,” he recalls. “So the decision to include a bequest in my will to ALS Canada was easy to make.”

Dr. Heather Durham

Headshot of Dr. Heather Durham

Like most people, Dr. Heather Durham, researcher and professor at McGill University, never expected to be touched by ALS. In fact, her connection to the disease came indirectly and unexpectedly through a patient she met as a young investigator at the Montreal Neurological Institute and Hospital.

“It was a pivotal moment in my career, and I remember it like it was yesterday,” she says. “From that point, I would focus my research on ALS.”

While this realization came more than 30 years ago, Dr. Durham’s quest to find answers and develop effective treatments has continued to grow year after year.

“I have tremendous confidence in the ability of ALS Canada to advance ALS research, to invest donor dollars wisely, and to create a better future for everyone affected by this devastating disease.”

Heather decided to include a contribution to ALS Canada in her will to ensure that her work continues long after she hangs up her lab coat. Today, Dr. Durham serves on the ALS Canada Board of Directors as well as the organization’s Scientific and Medical Advisory Council.

In Canada, May is “leave a legacy” month, which encourages people like Richard and Heather to make a donation through their will or another planned giving vehicle to a charity or cause that is meaningful to them. A planned gift to ALS Canada is a way to extend your compassion to people and families who will face an ALS diagnosis in the future, and to demonstrate your shared hope for a future without ALS.

We are committed to working with you, your family and your financial advisor to ensure your philanthropic and financial goals are met. If you have questions about making a donation to ALS Canada in your will, please contact or 1-800-267-4257.

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