ELIZABETHTON, Tenn. - Hundreds of people ran in Elizabethton today, raising thousands of dollars for former elementary school principal Josh Wandell.
Five years ago, Wandell was diagnosed with Amyotrphic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease. It’s a terminal condition with no known cure that causes muscles to become paralyzed over time.
Josh’s brother, Neal, recalled when he heard about the diagnosis.
“I remember him calling me and just breaking down and being very emotional,” Neal Wandell said. “It was a tough time for us."
Josh now receives treatment in Houston, Texas every few months. The medical costs are expensive, so his family hosts a fundraiser run every year to help.
"It's amazing how our community has come together,” Neal Wandell said.
Josh cannot speak anymore, but he does eye-controlled technology to communicate with others. His brother says that even though his body doesn’t work like it did previously, Josh’s mind is as sharp as ever.
Runners come from as near as Elizabethton and as far as other states to support Josh. Some of them said that Josh has inspired them.
"I've learned some about ALS,” runner and friend Chris Baldwin said. “I've learned more about faith and determination through Josh's struggles."
His son agreed.
"We were talking earlier about how nice of a community it is to uplift an individual and to bring support together," Gavin Baldwin said. "It's a neat atmosphere to be a part of."
Josh and his family hope that researchers will find a cure for the disease.
"It's sad,” Neal Wandell said. “There's no doubt about it, but his will to live, his will to survive makes you…you can't be sad around him."