May 2012 Volunteer of the Month
The ALS Association Greater Philadelphia Chapter is supported by amazing volunteers year round, many of whom are looking for an opportunity to give back after receiving help in their family’s fight against ALS. For Rosa Snyder, our May 2012 Volunteer of the Month, getting involved with the Chapter was a way to give back, but also fit in with a lifetime of helping others.
Rosa’s volunteer spirit comes from being surrounded by family and friends who value helping others. One of her biggest inspirations was her father Jorge, who grew up in Argentina and always told the same stories, yet they never seemed to get old.
That generous upbringing and close family led Rosa to use her energy to help her community. She was a volunteer firefighter for a few years and was also a volunteer AYSO soccer coach, which she will be doing again this fall. Her family is also involved in St. Joseph’s Church in the Bloomsburg, PA area where her family lives.
So when her father Jorge was diagnosed with ALS and she saw the challenges he faced each day, Rosa did what she so often does. She stepped up to help others with ALS and to bring awareness and hope to not just Bloomsburg, but throughout Northeast Pennsylvania.
Everybody’s experience with ALS is different, as Rosa would quickly learn, but Jorge’s story was similar to many other families that Rosa would eventually meet. Jorge started to experience atrophy in his arm in 2008. He started to sweat a lot and fell a couple times and was losing weight far too quickly. Rosa helped take him to doctors and, after a series of tests; he was diagnosed with ALS in 2009. Jorge Alejandro Rodriguez, Sr. passed away from Lou Gehrig’s Disease just nine months later in 2010.
For Rosa, it was important to make sure that there would one day be a cure for people like her father, but it was also important to know that she was not alone in this struggle. Bloomsburg is not as big as the Philadelphia area and there is not as much awareness of ALS there. Rosa knew that if she was going to beat this disease, she would need to get the word out and in a big way.
Rosa had worked with Jen LaRegina with The Greater Philadelphia Chapter while her father was living with ALS and with Jen’s and the Chapter’s help, she had received a hospital bed, a wheelchair, and other assistance with no questions asked. So Rosa went back to Jen and said “How can we help other people like my father?” That is how Rosa Snyder started the Bloomsburg, Jorge’s Walk to Defeat ALS®, which had its official beginning in May 2011.
With Rosa and Jen’s hard work, there were 375 people at that first walk. She said she needed something positive and the response to her efforts took her breath away. As Rosa said “I’m going to keep doing this. It feels good to give back. It feels good to see them smile. What more could you ask for?”
The day of that first walk, it was pouring down rain. Rosa said to her husband Roy, “maybe this won’t turn out well after all.” Just five minutes after that, the clouds left, the sun came out, and it turned out to be a beautiful day. “I almost felt like my dad was there,” said Rosa afterwards.
The feedback to the walk was extremely positive. There had never been a Walk to Defeat ALS® in Bloomsburg, so Rosa and her team didn’t know what to expect. So many people came to her afterwards and said “wow, this is so organized and so much fun!”
There are already 21 teams signed up for the 2012 Bloomsburg, Jorge’s Walk to Defeat ALS® and Rosa, Jen, and her team are more organized, prepared, and excited than last year. She knows that her dad would have wanted to see how this amazing walk has progressed. Even though Jorge won’t physically be there, Rosa has made it a goal to have him there in spirit. In 2011, they used an orange tree as a symbol for Jorge, who had come from a farming community. This year they are wearing Argentine shirts because her family is from Argentina. Rosa is already talking about doing Argentina BBQ for next year’s walk.
The positive response has left Rosa feeling energized and ready to do whatever it takes to defeat ALS. This year, that included becoming an ALS Advocate. Rosa, Jen, and her friends Florence Brady and Mandy Podehl met with their State Representative David Millard to share their stories and to ask for his support in Harrisburg. Following that, Rosa also met with her State Senator, John Gordner. She has even volunteered to speak at our Pennsylvania Advocacy Day in Harrisburg.
Through Rosa’s efforts with the Walk to Defeat ALS® and as an ALS Advocate, she is letting people everywhere know that they are not alone in their fight against Lou Gehrig’s Disease. She is committed to awareness today so that there is hope for tomorrow. With her husband Roy and her children Geroge, Victoria, and Gabriela, Rosa is making sure that everybody knows how they can help people diagnosed with ALS and the families that support them.
Thanks to our Rosa Snyder, our May Volunteer of the Month, hope really is blooming in Bloomsburg.