July 2013 Volunteer of the Month
The Frank Family
ALS does not just affect individuals. It affects entire families, eager to find a cure and to be there for a loved one. It unites people for a single purpose: to create a world without ALS. One family who is particularly united in this purpose is the Frank family, our July Volunteers of the Month.
It would be unfair to single out just one member of the Frank family for all that they do together to raise money and awareness in the fight against ALS, but the one person who should be highlighted above all else is Eileen Frank. In early 1999, Eileen was diagnosed with Lou Gehrig’s Disease. This family matriarch had symptoms of ALS since the middle of 1998 before receiving her diagnosis at the University of Pennsylvania Medical Center.
Upon hearing of the diagnosis, the Frank family attended a newly diagnosed meeting. This wasn’t just one or two people going to the meeting with Eileen. Joan Borowsky recalls being at the meeting and seeing 15 members of the Frank family walk in, eager to learn about ALS, how they could support their mother, and what they could do to make a difference. It was a sight that Joan will not soon forget.
Eileen’s son Dan Frank had done a lot of long distance bike rides, including ones for Multiple Sclerosis and cancer. After meeting the Chapter staff and learning more about ALS, Dan decided that the Franks should do a bike ride for ALS. Just a few months after that first newly diagnosed meeting, Dan and the family held their first ALS Express bike ride. The first one was just 15 riders who were friends and family members who heard about it from word of mouth, but it would soon grow considerably.
Just a few short weeks after that first ride, the Frank family were introduced to Will and Jack Morey and Dan and the siblings decided that they could do an even bigger bike ride with an end point at Morey’s Piers amusement park. In their second year, they were able to have a much bigger ride with the Morey’s Piers end point and raised nearly $40,000.
Since then, the ALS Express bike ride has grown by leaps and bounds, particularly in the past three years as the Chapter has gotten more involved. For the first seven years, Dan Frank was the lead organizer and then his sisters Carolyn and Kim lead the ride for a while before it became so popular that it made sense for the Chapter to help in an even bigger way. In the early years, the Frank family also organized a Beef and Beer fundraiser in the fall, which could raise as much as $15,000, but they wanted to make sure the ride was as successful as possible. This past June was the 15th annual ALS Express bike ride with over 600 riders participating, and even with all of that success, the Frank family is always thinking of how it can be bigger and better.
The bike ride consists of 10, 25, 50, and 75 mile courses, but those numbers alone aren’t enough to measure just how much the Frank family has done to make this event a success. Starting with Dan in the early years of the ride, the family plans the route and makes sure every rider is safe and prepared. Christine orchestrates up to 100 volunteers per year and is the central point of contact for anybody needing help during the day.
“Every year when we do the ride, it’s a feel good experience,” said Carolyn. “There is so much enthusiasm and energy. The folks at the Chapter were so wonderful for us while mom was living with ALS. Everybody was always there to answer questions for us and now we want to be there for them.”
While Eileen was the initial inspiration, every year the Frank family sees more people who inspire them to work just as hard for the next ride.
“We always inspired by people like Barry Schultz and Karen Delaney Shideleff,” said Kim. “It is so nice to see so many patients and families at the end point and I hope they get satisfaction from the day. We are glad to know that word continues to spread and people want to be involved.”
Eileen Frank lost her battle with ALS on January 2nd, 2001, but her family has made her fight their fight, doing everything in their power to raise money and awareness for others affected by the disease. The money they have raised since then has greatly helped improve ALS research and patient care services available through the Chapter. The Franks don’t just want to improve research though. Their end point is not Morey’s Piers. It is a goal of a world without ALS. With people like the Franks on our side, it is a goal that feels even more possible than it did 15 years ago, when a group of 15 caring family members asked “what can we do to help?”
Said Carolyn, “We are encouraged by the growth, but we can’t wait until the day when we are just doing this for fun. We want to see a cure!”