WICHITA FALLS - One local family has been dealt a tough hand as they deal with their father's diagnosis of ALS, but as Ashley Wheeler found out, they say their friends, family and faith have kept them strong and filled with courage through it all.
"You have touched our lives in ways that has made what should be a curse, into a blessing," said Jared Vann, reading a passage from a note his dad wrote.
Don Vann, better known as "Poppy" to his family, was diagnosed almost two years ago with ALS or Lou Gehrig's, which is a progressive neurodegenerative disease that affects nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord.
Since his movements are restricted, his family has stepped in to help him get around and share his thoughts.
"Living with ALS, or as I like to call it, always losing something has been filled with many uncertainties," Jared Vann read. "There are things that have become crystal clear to Judy and I. One definite is that we serve an awesome God and He is good. He is always there and always provides."
Always provides with encouraging words.
"The three f's," Poppy said.
"Yes. Don has come up with the three f's, which include faith in Jesus Christ, the love of family and the love of friends and how all three of those things have worked together to get us through this," Judy Vann, Poppy's wife, said.
Poppy said he didn't want his ALS to change everything for those he loves, but as a family, they're walking this journey together, even registering for ALS events in Fort Worth.
"We have a strong team. Poppy's platoon and between the two years, we've raised over $13,000, almost $15,000 for the ALs association," Judy said.
Their kids said even though their dad's life and movements are affected by the illness, both of their parents have remained the same through it all.
"He still has his sense of humor. I still have to get on to him sometimes when he gets the kids in trouble," Amy Lewis, Poppy's daughter, said.
"No, they get me in trouble," Poppy said.
"They both have maintained humor and courage, just all of the good descriptive words through this whole journey and nothing's changed," said Jared Vann. "My mom has had to do stuff for my dad she thought she would probably never have to do. Obviously, my dad never thought he would be in a wheelchair or losing abilities."
While there's no cure for the disease yet, Poppy has remained hopeful.
"The silver lining has been the outpouring of love and support," Poppy said.
And of course..
"The fact that we can go through this because of Jesus Christ," Judy said.
She said the family knows Christ has been there every step of the way and knows He will continue to be their source of strength.
Due to the disease, Poppy and his family have had numerous expenses.
His family put up a GoFundMe account to help pay for a van to transport the wheelchair that still allows him some independence.
If you would like to donate, just click here.
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