September 2012 Volunteer of the Month

Dawn Spence


What you get is priceless.

In June of 2005, Donna Katcher was diagnosed with ALS. Just weeks later, her sister Dawn Spence joined her to defeat Lou Gehrig’s Disease. They have not stopped since.

A diagnosis of ALS does not just affect one person. Entire families are impacted, as well as friends, neighbors, and coworkers. For Donna Katcher, when she knew that she officially had Lou Gehrig’s Disease, she also knew that she would not have to fight it alone. She may not have known just how much her sister Dawn would do to make a difference.

Dawn Spence is the first to tell you that she’s not a multi-millionaire. As Dawn puts it, she can donate in her own way, giving her time to create a world without ALS.

The first time Dawn and Donna got involved was at the 2005 Lehigh Valley Walk to Defeat ALS®. While they didn’t have a walk team that year, they decided to visit the event to see what it was like and whether it was worth attempting the next year. Right away, they were met with families that shared their stories, and volunteers who helped run a tight ship to create a successful event. That day is perfect evidence of how every interaction from a volunteer or supporter of the Greater Philadelphia Chapter can have a ripple effect, inspiring others to get involved themselves. After Dawn and Donna got their feet wet in 2005, they dove right in to make a big impact in 2006.

As Dawn explains, they didn’t just ease their way into the Lehigh Valley Walk to Defeat ALS®, they jumped in whole hog. Dawn volunteered with the walk committee and met up with Holly Bennett, Wendy Barnes, and Allison Walker, learning how to make the walk a success and bring attention to the cause. Since then, she has made great friends from the committee, including patients and family members from the Lehigh Valley and beyond who come year after year who are a constant reminder of why she works so tirelessly. As Dawn puts it, ALS is a horrible disease, but with her sister Donna, they take the good with the bad. “It’s easy to say that, but sometimes you really can live that way. Getting involved with The ALS Association has brought a lot of people back into our lives.”

At one point, Dawn was raising money to help her sister. Quickly though, she became an ambassador for all people with ALS. That includes helping people with ALS beyond the Lehigh Valley. Dawn has attended walks throughout the region, going out to the Hershey Walk to Defeat ALS® to volunteer and all the way out to the Ocean City Board…Walk to Defeat ALS®, doing whatever is asked to make a difference. She learns what others do well and brings it back to Allentown, while giving of herself time and again. No distance is too far for Dawn to help get us closer to a cure.

That hope for a cure is what truly drives Dawn Spence to continue her work. She is committed to supporting ALS research because not only will it help her sister with Lou Gehrig’s Disease, but as we come closer to understanding ALS, researchers learn more about MS, Parkinson’s Disease, and other neurological conditions. When one domino falls, perhaps more will follow.

That thinking defines Dawn Spence’s involvement with The Greater Philadelphia Chapter. First she thought beyond her family to help others in her community with ALS. Then she thought beyond her community, giving the gift of her time to walks from central Pennsylvania to Ocean City and all points in between. Now she’s even thinking beyond ALS to how her work can help even more people. At her core, Dawn Spence thinks beyond herself and that inspires everybody she meets.

Dawn is also always looking for new ways to do her part. While she loves the Walk to Defeat ALS®, she also is quick to talk about how phenomenal the Phillies Phestival is and how amazing the Phillies are for all that they do. Dawn has worked for years on putting together local games between the Phillies ball girls and a Lehigh Valley softball team to raise money and awareness. Because of Dawn, the impact of the Phillies organization goes even further to help people with ALS.

This year, due to scheduling conflicts, they couldn’t put together the yearly game, but that did not deter Dawn. Nothing deters Dawn! Instead they are holding a concert with Jimmy and the Parrots, a Jimmy Buffet tribute band, on Friday, September 28th. In addition to raising money from tickets, there will be raffles and a 50/50.

Dawn does not just contribute her time, she contributes an infectious attitude that makes others want to get involved as well. Her thought is “if you have the time to volunteer, why not? It doesn’t cost you a thing, and what you get out of it is priceless. How can you not want to help?” After working with Dawn Spence for the past seven years to fight ALS together, we agree. That’s why we’re  happy to work with her as our September Volunteer of the Month and look forward to continuing to work with her until we accomplish our goal: a world without ALS.


The ALS Association Greater Philadelphia Chapter
321 Norristown Road - Suite 260, Ambler, PA 19002

The ALS Association is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization and donations are tax deductible to the full extent of the law.