peace,” Cathy recalled. “It made the whole experience a little easier. It lifted some of our sadness as we knew we were honoring one of his wishes.”
The ALS Association’s Greater Philadelphia chapter, which will benefit from donations received at the walk, played a major part in supporting the Malkemes family. Because of the ALS Association, Ken was able to remain at home through his illness, his wife related, and the the whole family was treated by people there who understood and supported their struggle.
“It’s so important to support families that are afflicted with ALS,” Cathy said. ALS is a progressive neurodegenerative disease that affects nerve cells in the brain and the spinal cord. Ken began suffering with the disease in 2009.
A civil engineer, Ken was always active in the community, serving on the Wright Township Board of Supervisors and, at the time of his passing, serving his third term on the Crestwood School Board. He never let ALS keep him down and insisted on attending board meetings and his sons’ sporting events even on bad days.
“Some days it took us all day to get him ready for his meetings or the boys’ sporting events, but he was dedicated,” Cathy said. “He just enjoyed and thrived on working for his community…. He had a very high integrity and was a perfectionist. He was a fair and honest man, those were two of the greatest qualities he had.”
She went on, “When Kenny got the diagnosis, he didn’t choose to give up. There wasn’t a day that went by that he didn’t want to get out of bed. He always had an agenda…He didn’t give in to it. He fought it as long as he could until he couldn’t anymore. I admire that a lot about him.”
Ken and Cathy were married for 22 years and raised four boys –David, Michael, Christian, and Joshua. “He was very involved in his boys’ lives and he wanted to be a good dad. He was a great dad and husband and a very hard worker,” Cathy noted.
Cathy described her boys as “amazing” as they all rallied around their father, helping to support and take care of him as he battled ALS. She added that they are all looking forward to the walk on April 15, as a way to celebrate their father’s life.
Part of the reason the family chose a walk in Ken’s memory is because that was something he enjoyed. An avid hiker, Ken completed the Appalachian Trail in 2009; the feat took him 23 years as the trail is 2,179 miles.
While the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge drew attention to the disease a few years ago, that attention has seemed to fade. Cathy wants to make sure that awareness of it continues and that families dealing with the disease are supported. “We need to keep reminding people so that we can find a cure,” she said.
Many in Mountaintop supported the Malkemes family and continue to do so, by showing interest in the walk. Raffle baskets have already been donated and will continue to be accepted on the day of the walk.
Those who wish to attend the walk can register that morning, from 9 a. m. to 2 p. m., at the Crestwood High School track. The cost is $10 to participate, with additional donations appreciated, and each participant receives a water bottle and an ALS bracelet. Those who can’t attend the walk, can also donate at alsphiladelphia.orgor register to be an organ donor at donors1.org.
Cathy reiterated of the walk that it will be a day of celebration for Ken’s life and she looks forward to seeing the community of local friends that supported the family.
“The people who surrounded us, they were just amazing,” she said. “We had a lot of friends, a lot of loving people supporting us. This is a small event to reach those people and let them know how much their support is appreciated.”