August 2012 Volunteer of the Month
Mary Ann Wollter
Understanding what’s important. It’s the motto of M&T Bank, one of the sponsors for the Walk to Defeat ALS®, but those three words which appear behind Mary Ann Wollter in this picture also define our August Volunteer of the Month.
Mary Ann Wollter got involved in the fight against ALS because the disease took her husband Gene. Together they shared a keen understanding of what is important in life and instilled that into their loving family. When you hear Mary Ann talk about her husband, you can immediately sense his kindness and his unselfishness. Then, when you hear their daughter Mary Lou and son-in-law Brian talk about Mary Ann, you see the same qualities. Clearly, Mary Ann and Gene were made for each other.
That unselfishness and understanding has ingrained itself not only into Mary Ann’s immediately family, but into the greater community through the Rehoboth Walk to Defeat ALS®. After Gene had passed away, Mary Ann committed to doing all that she could to make sure no other family would have to face the challenges of Lou Gehrig’s Disease, and now she is using every opportunity in front of her to carry out her mission.
Many of the people who volunteer at the Greater Philadelphia Chapter do so because they received many benefits from the Chapter and want to return the favor. In Mary Ann’s case, her family did not even know about the programs from The ALS Association until far too late. They went though endless doctor’s visits, struggled to get social security disability, and purchased many tools to help Gene including a wheelchair, a walk in shower, a hospital bed, and braces for his legs. Gene and Mary Ann’s journey with ALS was never an easy one, but they all worked together, as a family.
Mary Ann is never one to take credit on her own. She is forever thankful to Gene’s sisters and their spouses and to the Wollter’s two children, their spouses, and many family and friends. Even the youngest in the family got involved as their grandson helped to put up Christmas lights when Pop Pop could not do it anymore, something Gene always loved to do during the holidays. Again, there was always an understanding of what is important. Even the smallest lights can sometimes shine the brightest.
Nobody would fault Mary Ann for wanting to put ALS behind her after Gene passed away in late 2006. Instead, she committed herself to doing everything she could to make sure no other family had to face the challenges of Lou Gehrig’s Disease. Mary Ann started the Rehoboth Walk to Defeat ALS®, which continues to grow each year. In 2011, the event raised over $92,000! Over the past few years, the Rehoboth Walk to Defeat ALS® has raised hundreds of thousands of dollars. Even though Gene did not use the services of The ALS Association, through the hard work of Mary Ann and her family, hundreds of people with ALS in Delaware and beyond have access to patient services like clinic visits, wheelchairs, assistive technology, and home modifications.
That is quite an accomplishment, but for Mary Ann, that is not enough. She is also using her voice as an ALS advocate, visiting Washington for Advocacy Day and connecting with Delaware elected officials to support funding for ALS research. Mary Ann is determined to bring help for patients today, and hope for families for a future free of ALS. She even helped procure a table at the recent NASCAR race at Dover Speedway to help spread awareness. If even one family can be helped, Mary Ann knows her work has been worth it, but because of all that she has done, it is not just one family, but hundreds that are receiving the benefits.
Mary Ann and Gene Wollter both shared an understanding of what is really important in life. Now, through her words, through her work, and through her example, Mary Ann is sharing that with all of us. That is why we are happy to have her be our August Volunteer of the Month.
You can join Mary Ann at the Rehoboth Walk to Defeat ALS® on Saturday, September 15th by visiting http://www.kintera.org/faf/home/default.asp?ievent=1004689