NORTH DELTA — Autism, epilepsy and ALS have combined to hit one local family hard, both physically and financially.
Melanie Anderson’s husband, Eric, was forced to retire early last year due to his struggles with ALS, or amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, a disease that affects nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord.
Making matters worse, the youngest of the couple’s two children, Dylan, 10, has autism and was also recently diagnosed with refractory epilepsy.
Without question, 2015 was a very tough year for the Andersons.
“Like so many people caring for their loved ones, I must be home to care for my family, and so I am unable to maintain a job,” Melanie writes in the intro to a crowd-funding initiative she launched to help the family pay its bills.
Eric’s disease might kill him sometime over the next two to five years, Melanie laments. A couple years ago, Eric’s mother was in the end stages of her own battle with ALS.
The aim of the GoFundMe campaign, launched in December and dubbed “ALS Stinks, Community Rocks,” is to help “alleviate some of these financial stresses and allow my family to focus on each other while Eric is with us.”
So far, three dozen friends and community members have contributed $3,250 to the cause.
BC Lions players Emmanuel Arceneaux and Marco Iannuzzi have recorded and posted videos to help spread word of the family’s fundraising campaign.
In recent times, both of the football veterans have helped mentor Dylan through his struggles with autism.
Last spring, Dylan and other local kids were running and jumping with Arceneaux during a football-skills clinic he hosted at Sunshine Hills Elementary, along with Solomon Elimimian, a fellow Lion and all-star linebacker.
“Manny’s voice has a huge reach and for this, we are thankful that he has lent his voice for our family and those like us,” Melanie enthuses.
“Emmanuel is an amazing man – not just on the field, but off the field as well. Big love!”
(PICTURED: BC Lions player Emmanuel Arceneaux with Dylan Anderson at a football-skills clinic held last spring at Sunshine Hills Elementary in North Delta.)
In turn, Arceneaux is inspired by the Andersons.
“All that adversity they face, from the moment they wake up until they lay their heads down, one thing I’ve noticed is they haven’t given up yet, still to this day, and they just keep pushing and pushing,” Arceneaux says in the video he made.
“By being an athlete and wanting to encourage them and motivate them, it goes both ways – they encourage and motivate me, because I find myself, at moments, wanting to give up. And I say, you know what, Dylan kept pushing, Miss Melanie kept pushing, (the) family kept pushing.”
In a separate video, broadcaster Maureen McGrath, host of “The Sunday Night Sex Show” on Vancouver radio station CKNW, has also voiced an appeal to give the Andersons’ fundraiser a boost.
Prior to his retirement last year, Eric was a 20-year employee with Hitfar, a distributor of cellphone and smartphone accessories based in Burnaby.
“The support of (the company), and especially owner Troy Fargey, has been second to none,” Melanie told the Now.
“They’ve filmed Eric for a special tribute after he passes. They will be donating so much of their sales for one day a year to a trust fund for my kids.”
She’s amazed by the wide-reaching community support the family has received during tough times.
“My local school, neighborhood community and the ALS Society of BC have been incredibly forthcoming in helping us access all the resources available to us,” Melanie wrote. “Still we struggle to balance the reduced income against the increased expenses that come with so many terminal illnesses.”
See videos below.