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Don and Lisa, Thanksgiving, 2011

Don and Lisa, Thanksgiving, 2011

On May 26, 2011, my then 53-year-old brother, Don Stephens, was diagnosed with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) which is commonly referred to as Lou Gehrig’s disease. He died on August 28, 2012. Along with his wife, Lisa, I served as one of his caregivers during those last few months of his life. It was extremely painful to watch him suffer from this horrible disease. For Don, however, it was even more painful.

Prior to his diagnosis, Don had always been very athletic. He was still playing softball and hitting home runs in 2010. We even bought new bikes and rode for a couple of months in the summer of 2011, before he started having issues with falling. Despite his understanding of how the disease was going to progress, he tried to remain active for as long as he could.

While my brother was still alive, I discussed with him my desire to do something substantial in his memory regarding raising funds for ALS research. What I decided to do was to attempt a thru-hike of the Appalachian Trail.  Since 2002, I had hiked over 1000 miles of the approximately 2180 mile trail in sections. For years I had thought about trying a thru-hike, a continuous hike of the entire trail from Springer Mountain in north Georgia to Mt. Katahdin in Maine. Every year between two and three thousand hikers begin the trek in late winter or early spring. Fewer than 25 percent reach their goal. I was determined to be one of those who make it.

On September 2, 2013, 164 days after beginning the hike on Springer Mountain, the southern terminus of the A.T., I summited Mt. Katahdin, the northern terminus in Maine.  After returning to my home I edited my journal, included stories about my brother, and transformed what I had written into a book. My book, Don’s Brother: A Hike of Hope on the Appalachian Trail, written in honor and memory of Don, was published on March 4, 2014, six months after I completed the trail

 

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3 Comments

3 thoughts on “Home

  1. Pam Woodard

    What a perfect way to remember Donald. We all miss him so much. May God be your guide on The Trail.
    Love,
    The Woodard Gang

  2. possible - va

    It was a pleasure to meet you today at the 522 trailhead. We’ll follow your journey.

    Safe travels,
    Possible and Lisa Jenkins

  3. Mike Stanko

    Mike, wow…incredible story and tribute. I found this site as I am planning a hiking trip with my 22 year old daughter in the White Mtns. I am 54. It is a bit of a special event for us, just her an dad. I will think of you Mike and your brother Don as we hike from Galehead to Crawford Notch. God bless you and thanks for creating this site. Mike

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