Ken's Marathon for Firefighters Fighting ALS

A month before marathon #2 of 2019, and  my #5 overall, in Newport, RI and a push to raise money for my friend, Steve Cronin, fighting ALS, thru the charity Firefighters Fighting ALS. Please consider contributing to a great organization, for a great guy!

The three of us have been fighting fires together on the same engine crew for almost twenty years.  Over the past two decades our friendship has grown along with our families.  We are always together, be it at the firehouse, on the sidelines of our kids’ sporting events, or on someone’s deck enjoying time with family and friends.  

In early 2018 we found out Steve had been diagnosed with ALS.  The decision to fight this disease as a team was obvious.  In firefighting we go in together as one and we come out together as one every time.  This fight was going to be no different!

We formed Firefighters Fighting ALS to raise funds to help firefighters with ALS defray the substantial costs of treatment, assistive technology, and home modifications so they can continue to live comfortably in their own homes.  It is Steve’s vision that the organization will outlive his fight and continue to help other firefighters. 

From Wakefern's corporate portal...

“All right, look, we’re not doing this, gentlemen. We're not gonna do this. We’re not gonna go bouncing off the walls for the next 10 minutes, because we’re just gonna end up right back here with the same problems.” -- Tom Hanks, “Apollo 13”

Steve Cronin always loved that scene. He loved that amid the confusion of deciphering how to bring an orphaned spaceship back to Earth, one voice cut through the chaos. One voice urged calm.

He thought about that scene a few months ago, when a doctor delivered this devastating piece of news: Cronin had amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS).

“The good news is it’s not one of my friends,” said Cronin, a member of Wakefern’s Efficient Retail Operations team. “I’d rather it be me than one of my friends or one of my other family members.”

It happened so fast.

In January, friends noticed that Cronin’s speech patterns were changing.

In March, he saw a doctor.

In June, he was diagnosed with ALS. The doctor even told him how much longer he could expect to live.

“Four years,” Cronin said. “But I plan on being around a lot longer.”

ALS is a brutal, unforgiving disease. It attacks nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord. It makes everything from speech to movement more difficult.

For Cronin, the diagnosis was jarring. He spent more than two decades as a volunteer firefighter and enjoyed running 5K races. Before his diagnosis, he registered for a half-marathon. If that went well, he was going to try tackling the full 26.2.

Cronin can no longer run. He walks slowly. He said that his mind is still running at the same speed as before, but he struggles to communicate his thoughts.

“Having this disease sucks,” Cronin said. “But it does give you a different perspective on how to look at things.

“I can complain or I can fight. I’m a fighter.”

His friends are helping him take the fight to ALS. On Feb. 9, two friends from the firehouse are hosting a Beef and Beer fundraiser in New Hope, Pennsylvania. The event is designed to raise money not just for Cronin, but to an organization he helped create: Firefighters Fighting ALS.

“I made them promise that it’s more than just me,” Cronin said. “That it will continue when I am gone. That it will help everybody who needs help until the disease is gone.”

In the meantime, he’s ready to fight.

“I am in a great place,” Cronin said. “I have family and friends with boundless support. I have a great medical team in Jefferson helping me fight and I work with a great company that has stood by my side and has said, ‘You are not alone. We are with you.’”

“The friends I have in this company are amazing. I want to thank everyone who has helped me in this fight. With this support, I am going to find a way to beat this.”

Cronin hopes the foundation will be a part of his legacy, a way to help leave a lasting impression on his son. He wants his son to remember him as a father who cared. Someone who cared about family, cared about colleagues, and cared about his job.

If you care, Cronin believes, everything will work itself out.

“I’m going to enjoy my time,” Cronin said. “I’m not going to be sad. I’m not going to cry about it. I’m going to enjoy whatever time I have left.”
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Ken Dobler 
Fair Lawn, NJ
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