Maria and Carl Medwedrich were born and raised in Sooke, and have been together since Marie was 13-years-old. Last year, Carl beat cancer, and shortly after, he was diagnosed with ALS. A beer and burger fundraiser is being held for Carl at the Sooke Legion on June 9. (Dawn Gibson/Sooke News Mirror)

Maria and Carl Medwedrich were born and raised in Sooke, and have been together since Marie was 13-years-old. Last year, Carl beat cancer, and shortly after, he was diagnosed with ALS. A beer and burger fundraiser is being held for Carl at the Sooke Legion on June 9. (Dawn Gibson/Sooke News Mirror)

Sooke volunteer to receive helping hand

Beer and burger night for Carl Medwedrich takes place June 9

Sooke never fails to stand behind its residents in a time of struggle.

In 2016, Sooke resident Carl Medwedrich was diagnosed with cancer, and not even a year later, he was diagnosed with ALS.

“Carl beat cancer in 2017, and we didn’t even have time to celebrate. His arm had been twitching a for a while, but his speech started to go,” said Maria, Carl’s wife.

“The doctors say he could have had ALS for some time without noticing, but the cancer surgery could have triggered or sped up the disease.”

Both Maria, 57, and Carl, 62, were born and raised in Sooke, and have been together since Maria was 13 years old. They now have four children, and six grandchildren: three of the families live in Sooke, and one in Alberta.

“Carl and I have never been apart. We do everything together, so it’s horrifying to think he won’t be with me one day,” Maria said.

ALS affects the body’s muscles and ability to move, and gradually paralyzes people. It attacks the brain and spinal cord, and eventually the brain is no longer able to communicate with the muscles of the body.

There is no cure for ALS, and according to ALS Canada, about 80 per cent of patients die within two to five years of being diagnosed.

“It affects everyone differently,” explained Maria, adding the disease has already started affecting Carl’s tongue, making it difficult for him to talk, eat and swallow, and his arms, causing them to twitch and stiffen.

“We are both scared spitless, not knowing how it will affect him. It’s overwhelming right now, so we are just taking each day as it comes.”

Carl added that he is afraid of what’s to come, and the disease is hard to ignore because it has affected his speech so much already.

“I just try not to think about it, but I have sad moments,” Carl said.

To help the couple prepare for the worsening disease, Sooke resident and friend of the couple, Susan Bennett, wants to help by fundraising for the couple, starting with a beer and burger night at the Sooke Legion on June 9.

“I needed to put something together quick because they need help now, but this is just the beginning. I want to keep fundraising for them and the next step will be to help them get their house ready for when Carl needs it,” said Bennett, who is planning the fundraiser with her daughter Katie Weston.

“Maria and Carl are major contributors to Sooke. Maybe you’ve seen them handing out hot dogs at local fundraisers, or picking your winning duck at the Duck Race. They do so much in Sooke, so I feel it’s time for the community to give back to them in their time of need.”

The Medwedrichs are both Sooke Lions and have spent many years giving back to the community in any way they can.

“They would give you the shirts off their backs,” said Bennett. “In fact, just recently at Toonie Tuesday, they just offered to donate the last $5 they had.”

The beer and burger night will include live music, and a silent auction, with prizes such as a six-month gym membership, a Vancouver Canucks jersey and more. Two local women will also be shaving their heads during the event to raise money.

Tickets cost $20 and must be bought in advance at Shoppers Drug Mart or the Sooke Legion so Bennett knows how many burgers to prepare.The event begins at 6 p.m.

“It’s going to be a fun, feel-good event, and a great chance for the community to come out and support this amazing couple,” Bennett said. “I want to raise as much as I can, but I’m aiming to raise around $5,000.”

Those who are unable to make it, but would still like to donate can email Bennett at susan.bennett@shaw.ca.