Kramberger: An inspirational model to battle on and to give back

West Islanders should be inspired and motivated to support Coach Phil’s special fundraising tournament in support of the ALS Society of Quebec.

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Faced with a life-altering medical condition, a Pointe-Claire resident sets an inspiring example of a paying-it-forward moment by spearheading a fundraiser to help others.

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Last fall, Phil Lalonde, 61, was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), a progressive nervous system disease that causes loss of muscle control. There is no cure, yet, for ALS — commonly known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease, after the famed baseball player.

Lalonde said his symptoms started to appear in spring 2021, with weakness in his arms and then twitches, and he eventually sought medical attention. Lalonde, who retired a few years ago, noted he still drives and went on a recent fishing trip, but needs help with some things, like dressing, due to his condition.

Lalonde, a long-time soccer coach who once headed Soccer Pointe-Claire, launched a foundation and has organized a tournament in support of the ALS Society of Quebec in order to support patients and fund research into new treatments for the devastating condition.

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Lalonde, who is still coaching a women’s team this summer, is undergoing ALS drug treatments, intravenously and with pills.

“It’s still lots of fun and it gives me something to do,” he said of his current coaching duties. “I go out every week. The team does most of the work now, so they carry all the bags and stuff. But I’m there to motivate and inspire.”

Lalonde said the idea of a tournament fundraiser had been discussed about a decade ago when he was president of Soccer Pointe-Claire, but it took his ALS diagnosis to spark this weekend’s initiative.

The aim is to make the tournament an annual event, with hopes of expanding its reach by drawing teams from other parts of the Montreal region or even out-of-province. Lalonde said he hopes to follow in the footsteps of the Pointe-Claire Oldtimers hockey tournament, a community fundraiser that has raised around $2.3 million over 50 years.

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“We want to keep growing it and have as much fun as we possibly can,” he said of the soccer tournament. “The one thing I have realized with ALS is that life is short, enjoy it.”

Organizing the fundraiser acts as a therapeutic coping method as well.

“Without having a purpose … I’m sure my health would go straight down the tubes,” Lalonde said. “This way I’m giving back to society again and it’s important.”

Two well-known sports figures with ties to Pointe-Claire from the other football world, Tony Proudfoot and Michael Soles, were inflicted and eventually died from ALS. A Tony Proudfoot Fund has been established with ALS Quebec. Soles and his family also hosted and supported fundraisers for ALS.

Online donations can be made to Lalonde’s worthwhile drive. For more information and links, visit the Soccer Pointe-Claire website (soccerpointeclaire.com) or its Facebook page.

Let’s hope the targeted goal to raise $50,000 is reached through the men’s and women’s team tournament being held this weekend at Terra Cotta Park, off Donegani Ave., just east of Maywood Ave., in Pointe-Claire. An opening ceremony will be held Saturday at 9:45 a.m.

Albert Kramberger is editor of the Montreal Gazette’s West Island/Off-Island section.


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