It's March 28th! Today is my daddy's birthday, and despite the fact that it has been almost 12 years since we lost him to ALS, this day always tugs at my heart strings. I used to be sad and shut down on March 28th, but over the years, I've learned to find JOY and PEACE with this day, because it is a day to celebrate and honor the amazing person that my father was.
My father, Michael De Shields, was a loving husband, father, brother, friend, servant of God and awesome being. He was faithful, dependable, reliable, honest, loving and hard-working. He was determined and dedicated to whatever was his cause, and he could always make you SMILE! His favorite phrase - "By the grace of God". "How are you today, Mr. Mike? 'Oh I'm doing well... by the grace of God"." My father loved music, and he loved to dance. Whether it was dancing around the house to make everyone laugh, being the church mascot and busting a move, or at a wedding or event showing his swing dance talents, he loved to move!
In August 2006, my dad was diagnosed with ALS. Lou Gehrig's disease was all the knowledge that we had at the time. We had no idea of what would take place over the next 11 months! The disease progressed so rapidly and everything for my dad changed, from walking, talking, driving and working to being in a wheelchair, needing a feed tube and using a voice machine to communicate. Our rock and "go-to guy" now needed us do almost everything for him. Our lives changed drastically - all in less than 1 year.
Fortunately, for my family, we did not fight this battle alone. When my dad was diagnosed, we were introduced to the ALS Association DC/MD/VA chapter. They were an amazing resource for my father and our family, guiding us every step of the way, with complete preparation and knowledge about what was to come. Not only did they educate us about the disease and train us in caring for my dad, but they provided support and assistance with equipment, even placing a wheelchair ramp outside of my parent's house.
Although his life changed dramatically, my father never lost his spirit, his faith or his SMILE! This was also during the time of my wedding. Just a couple of weeks before the wedding, we rehearsed for our father-daughter dance, preparing for the new challenges that we would face including standing up and moving (just a few steps). We were ready! However, at the wedding reception, during the father-daughter dance, my dad experienced a chocking episode (one of the difficulties of ALS due to the inability to swallow). He recovered later; but, we never had our dance. Just two and a half months after my wedding, my father, Michael De Shields, lost his battle with ALS on July 19, 2007.
My family is forever grateful to the ALS Association DC/MD/VA chapter for the impeccable care, support and generosity that they showed my father and my family. Their dedication and commitment to my family was outstanding and truly appreciated. The ALS Association supports people living with ALS and their loved ones through services and education with a mission to, "To discover treatments and a cure for ALS, and to serve, advocate for, and empower people affected by ALS to live their lives to the fullest." Since 2007, it has been my family's goal to support the efforts of the ALS Association via donation, fundraising or helping spread awareness any way we can. It is through fitness that I purpose to help raise funds and spread awareness for this organization and this cause. What could be better than getting fit and improving your life, while raising money to improve the lives of others!
So, on Sunday, May 19, 2019, we are going to "Just Dance 4 ALS". Join SMILE4Fitness for a dance fitness extravaganza, led by some of Baltimore's most talented dance fitness instructors. We will get moving for those who no longer can and dance like EVERYONE is watching! Together we will Stop Making Insane Lazy Excuses 4 Fitness 4 ALS! I'll be dancing with a SMILE in memory of my dad. I wanna dance with somebody! Don't you wanna dance? Say you wanna dance!
Registration is open. If you can not make the event and still want to donate, please visit our fundraising page.