GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. - Scott Byslma, a former officer with the Grand Rapids Police Department, was diagnosed with ALS in 2017.
Although the neurodegenerative disease is affecting Byslma, he decided not to let that stop him from being active and living his life.
A few weeks after receiving the diagnosis, Bylsma returned to running. He was still walking then, though the muscles in his legs were weakening.
For the second year in a row, Bylsma has participated in the Nana's Run, which is a 5K in downtown Grand Rapids that raises awareness about ALS.
This year, even though Bylsma's condition has worsened, he still attended the event. And instead of running, he did it in his wheelchair.
"Crossing the finish is just one of those things, like 'hey we made it another year,'" said Bylsma. "But to me, it's seeing the joy in other people's faces."
Byslma worked for at the GRPD for 20 years, and he calls it his second home. He was joined by a group of officers who also ran in the 5K.
This year was the fifth year of the Nana Run, and there was a record turnout. Nearly 1,600 participated in the run. Bylsma said one of the people he met was a 7-year-old girl named Kennedy Arney who has been diagnosed with juvenile ALS.
"There is a community here in West Michigan," said Bylsma. "There is no age barrier, gender barrier, race barrier—it's a monster that can reach out and grab anyone. So to have this kind of support in West Michigan is just a wonderful thing to see here."
Kennedy said she walked almost the whole time despite her diagnosis. "I feel proud," she said. After meeting Bylsma, she said she wants to be a police officer when she grows up.
"To see her run across the finish is a memory that I will always hold dear," said Kennedy's mother, Jennifer Arney.
Since Nana's Run was started in 2014, it has raised more than $1.5 million for care, research and programs that have helped ALS patients.
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