Walk to End ALS - Ottawa

When Mike Rannie first noticed a problem in his right hand in October 2016, he assumed it had something to do with the arthritis he had been living with for 14 years. In fact, the lack of mobility was an early symptom of ALS. After a series of tests and consultations with neurologists, Mike received his diagnosis in June 2017. It was “surreal”, says Mike. “I accepted what was being said until I started thinking about my wife and kids. Then it really set in.”

Mike had heard about Lou Gehrig and he was familiar with Stephen Hawking’s long journey with ALS. What he didn’t know, however, was that there were no effective treatments available. That news came as a terrible shock. He had always been inspired by Stephen Hawking for “not letting ALS define him,” but when it came to confronting his own situation, Mike struggled.

“It takes so much away from you that defines who you are,” says Mike. “I asked myself, how do I maintain who I am with this diagnosis?” Mike has already had to give up some of his favourite activities like playing the piano and taking photographs with his camera. These days, he has difficulty turning pages so even reading a book on his own has become challenging.

Couple holding a "Welcome" sign at the Walk to End ALSThat doesn’t stop Mike from looking for ways to stay engaged. He has always been motivated by a strong sense of service to others. It’s the reason he joined the RCMP 20 years ago and continues to work part-time from home. Today, participating in the Walk to End ALS is one way to find meaning. He and his wife Grace see an opportunity to change the future for people with ALS. “Nowadays, when you receive an ALS diagnosis, doctors tell you ‘There’s nothing we can do,’” says Mike. “That’s wrong. I’ve got to change that for the next generation.”

Mike is raising money to help ALS Canada fund leading research that will accelerate the progress scientists are making in their quest to discover treatments that will slow the disease and prolong the life of people with ALS. Mike knows the money will also be used to provide important services such as the ALS Canada monthly support groups he and Grace attend. This year, Mike and Grace are off to an incredible start with more than $20,000 raised weeks ahead of the Walk to End ALS in Ottawa. They have used a variety of strategies including the ALS Pepper Challenge on YouTube, Facebook, emails, and donations collected through an “unofficial retirement party” held at Mike’s workplace and they are still looking for ideas to keep up the momentum.

When asked about how he finds the courage to face his diagnosis, Mike says, “I don’t know how else to deal with it. I’ve got time and I’m going to live. This disease isn’t going to stop me from doing that. I’ve got my bucket list and we’re going through it.” Recent items checked off that list include dinner on the Eiffel Tower in Paris with Grace and lunch in Toronto with Mike’s favourite author. Next up is a ride in a hot air balloon and skydiving with his step-daughter-in-law. That’s if she is up for it!

On Saturday, June 9th, members of the RCMP pipe band will continue their long-standing tradition of leading the Walk to End ALS participants in Ottawa as part of their commitment to community engagement and support.


In Memoriam: Fred Gillis

posed family photoEarlier this year, Fred Gillis, a former sergeant in the RCMP who was also very involved in the Walk to End ALS, passed away from ALS. During his career with the RCMP and as a volunteer, Fred was motivated by giving service to others primarily through his role coaching hockey, but also through his involvement with ALS Canada. Last year when they were still living in Edmonton, Fred and his wife Lana were the lead family for the Edmonton Walk to End ALS, raising $33,000. During Fred’s illness, the couple attended ALS Canada support groups and invited families living with ALS into their home hoping to help others by sharing their own knowledge and experience. Lana, who also worked as a peace officer for the RCMP, is continuing to raise awareness this year and has set an even higher goal of $50,000 for this year’s Walk to End ALS in Ottawa which she will attend in honour of Fred.


Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in May 2018 and has been updated to reflect the Signature event’s name that was changed in 2019.