ALS won't stop friends from tackling Hood to Coast relay route - KPTV - FOX 12

ALS won't stop friends from tackling Hood to Coast relay route

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One year ago, Brian Epp rode his power wheelchair from his home in Battle Ground to Bend to raise awareness about ALS, a disease he was diagnosed with five years ago.

Now, Epp is outdoing himself and taking on the Hood to Coast relay with a few brave friends, including Sam Beekman.

“I heard about Brian’s trip and said why don’t we do Hood to Coast next year?” said Beekman.

The two teamed up and started making plans. They hoped to do the relay right alongside all the runners a few weeks ago, but race organizers worried about safety. 

So now, their four-man team is leaving from Timberline Lodge early Friday morning, following nearly the same route as the runners.

Beekman contacted state and local police and they will support the team along the way. With a mischievous grin, using his computerized voice program, Epp says he left all of that to Beekman.

“I didn’t want to talk to officials and find out that they didn’t want me to be on the roads," Epp said. “So I figure it’s better to ask for forgiveness than for permission.”

The two men laughed and sealed the joke with a fist bump. 

Beekman is no stranger to Hood to Coast. Before he got sick, he ran the 200-mile relay 16 times, volunteered at exchange points and even worked with the staff.

Doing it again from a wheelchair, Beekman admits, could be very emotional.

“Yeah, it may be... pulling at my heart a little," he said. 

The average life expectancy for someone with ALS is one to five years.

Epp is already beating the odds.

“I’ve had it five years now and I don’t plan on kicking the ice bucket any time soon," he said. “I still have a long way to go before catching Stephen Hawking, but that’s a good goal.”

Epp and Beekman say they pray for the day they could just take a pill, get up out of their wheelchairs and be normal again. But until that happens, they say they’ll keep taking risks, raising awareness about ALS and fighting to find a cure.     

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