Comfort and dignity with ALS

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Courtesy photo Matt Wild, founder of Matt’s Place Foundation, has been battling ALS for two years. His fundraisers, like the Matt’s Place Pub Crawl on March 4, have raised thousands of dollars for battling the disease.

COEUR d'ALENE — Weak hands and faulty coordination were the onset symptoms of Matt Wild's amyotrophic lateral sclerosis.

Two years after his ALS diagnosis, the 43-year-old Coeur d'Alene man is confined to a wheelchair as his muscles continue to wither.

These days, a lengthy conversation is enough to fatigue the former United States Marine.

Wild insists — his speech still clear and articulate — that his respiratory system is fine. But even if it wasn't, it’s doubtful Wild would give up trying to help others who share his plight.

His nonprofit, Matt's Place Foundation, which Wild started after being diagnosed with ALS, raised $100,000 in its first year. Those funds helped around nine families either offset the cost of treatment or remodel their homes to better accommodate wheelchairs.

He’s hoping year two is even better.

"If things go as planned, we could be starting a Matt's Place home in a few months," said Wild, who hopes the funds can go toward building a fully-integrated smart-house to accommodate ALS patients.

Last year’s Matt’s Place Pub Crawl was one of the foundation’s primary fundraisers, raising $17,000, and it’s coming up again Saturday, March 4, in downtown Coeur d’Alene.

The event starts at 4 p.m. with 12 locations for participants to visit and enjoy a drink. It ends at the Coeur d’Alene Eagles Lodge on Sherman Avenue.

Game cards are $25 and can be stamped at any of the 12 locations to track progress along the route.

At 8 p.m., participants will gather at the Eagles Lodge for appetizers, drinks and loud music. A cash prize of $1,000 will be awarded through a drawing of the game cards, along with other prizes.

One of the stops on this year’s pub crawl will be The Art Spirit Gallery. Art Spirit owner and the founding father of the Coeur d’Alene arts scene, Steve Gibbs, succumbed to ALS Dec. 31, 2016.

"We want to honor (Gibbs)," Wild said. "I think it will be really exciting."

Wild and his wife, Theresa, have teamed up to help families such as Ken and Janie McElhenney.

When Ken was diagnosed last June, the ensuing costs of treatment were steep.

"For being as new of a program as it is, Matt’s is just wonderful," said Janie, Ken's wife. "The spiritual support we received from them would probably be No. 1. No. 2 was the financial support, to ensure we can stay in our home with such an expensive disease."

There is no treatment and no cure for ALS, and the average life expectancy for someone after diagnosis ranges from two to five years.

Wild thinks everyone with the disease should live with comfort and dignity.

"I have come to understand not only the physical and emotional difficulties, but also the financial problems so many families are navigating," Wild said. "Our foundation helps raise money to ease the burden of remodeling to make a home safe and accessible."

Tickets for the pub crawl can be purchased in advance at Sports Cellar at the intersection of Fourth Street and Sherman Avenue in downtown Coeur d’Alene and Nosworthy's Hall of Fame on Government Way across from the Kootenai County Fairgrounds. For more information, visit www.mattsplacefoundation.com.

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