Executive Director, Ryan Reczek’s Open Letter to the ALS Community Amidst COVID-19 Outbreak


I hope you are doing well. I want you to know that all of us at The ALS Association Western Pennsylvania Chapter are thinking of you and are here for you. As you are aware, the ongoing Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has changed many things for the time-being, including how our Chapter of The ALS Association operates. Our main priority continues to be the safety and well-being of those living with ALS, their caregivers, and our volunteers and staff.

ALS doesn’t stop, and neither do we. We continue to dedicate ourselves to the mission of The ALS Association and serving the community with all Chapter staff working remotely. Although our office is closed, please know that you can always call our main line at (412) 821-3254 and use the staff directory to reach the intended staff person. Our offices are open from 9:00AM – 5:00PM Monday through Friday. If we do not answer right away, please leave a message and we’ll return your call as soon as possible. I also invite you to email me personally at ryan@cure4als.org and I will help you connect with the appropriate staff member.

Below you will find more information regarding Chapter care services and events. These plans may change in accordance with CDC guidelines, but rest assured that we will communicate any changes in our operations to you. In addition to email communications like this one, we are regularly updating our Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram accounts.

The Care Services Team is working hard to continue serving individuals living with ALS in our region.

Here are a few things the Chapter is doing to continue services:

• Virtual caregiver support classes
• Modified equipment and supplement deliveries
• Respite home care grants
• Check-in phone calls
• County-specific resources for food and other necessities

Based on the CDC’s latest recommendations, we have modified our spring event schedule. As we continue to monitor the rapidly changing status of COVID-19, we will provide updates regarding our events via email and on our social media channels. Please click here for the most updated event information.

We have received many messages from people wanting to help our Chapter and individuals living with ALS. We are continually blown away by the generosity of our community and wanted to share a few ways you can help during this time.

Make a Gift
The programs and services that our community relies on are sustained by your generosity. We are grateful for your continued support.

Be an Advocate – Sign up for Action Alerts
The actions of Congress have an immense impact on people living with ALS. It’s important that those leaders hear from you. Sign up here to become an online Advocate.

Register for a Chapter Event
Our Development staff is available to help get your team registered, update your fundraising pages, and help you strategize to reach your fundraising goals this year.

Shop Amazon Smile
Shop online through Amazon Smile and The ALS Association will receive a portion of your purchase amount. Visit smile.amazon.com, sign up or log in using your Amazon account, and select The ALS Association Western Pennsylvania Chapter as your designated organization.

Help us Spread the Word and Your Positivity!
Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram and like and share our important updates regarding our care services and events. And, if you have something fun and positive to share, tag our Chapter or reach out to our Marketing Team. There is a lot of negativity on the internet right now and we want to help dilute that by helping you celebrate birthdays, anniversaries, and the other positive things in your lives. HINT: Funny videos and pets always bring us joy.

Social Distancing
We must come together by staying apart to do what is best for the health and safety of our communities and the world around us. We urge you to adhere to the CDC’s best practices in preventing the further spread of COVID-19 and to consider the impact on those currently living with ALS. Read our latest blog post for fun things to do while self-quarantining.

The ALS Association Western Pennsylvania Chapter is standing with you by continuing our mission to serve, advocate for, and empower our ALS community. Thank you for your continued support.


Ryan Reczek
Executive Director
The ALS Association Western Pennsylvania Chapter

Fun things to do Indoors

We understand that self-quarantine and social distancing can take its toll both mentally and physically. Therefore, our Chapter Marketing team has compiled a list full of tips and resources to help keep you busy during this time.


  • Have a karaoke night and sing along to all of your favorite songs
  • Learn something new, or find inspiration by listening to some TED Talks
  • Have a game night
  • Take a tour of the world’s most famous museums– from your couch!
  • Try out a new recipe
  • Spring cleaning, anyone? Set aside unwanted clothing to donate or sell on sites like eBay or Poshmark
  • Take a nice long bubble bath
  • Clean out your refrigerator
  • Use Goodreads to rate the books you’ve already read and get new personalized recommendations
  • Build a blanket fort in your living room
  • Do some meditating – Use apps like Breathe and Calm to guide you!
  • Sing a song
  • Watch the sunrise or sunset
  • Make small house repairs
  • Paint, draw, sculpt, design – express yourself through art!
  • Start a blog or journal – and write your story!
  • Exercise from home
  • Listen to your favorite music
  • Take up yoga – use YouTube to find FREE classes!
  • Do some bird watching
  • Cook your favorite dinner- and eat by candlelight!
  • Knit or crochet
  • Listen to the radio
  • Sit in the backyard and enjoy the fresh air!
  • Clean out your car
  • Play with your pet
  • Play a game of cards
  • Break out an old instrument and play a tune
  • Build a model
  • Do a crossword puzzle
  • Read some poetry
  • Play a computer game
  • Walk your dog
  • Do some daily stretching
  • Visualize a pleasant scene
  • Spend some time surfing the internet
  • Color in a coloring book
  • Learn a new language- Download Duolingo to learn for FREE!
  • Listen to a new podcast
  • Dust off your library card- use Libby to borrow e-books and audiobooks from your local library for FREE!


  • Download a new audiobook from Audible
  • Check out local restaurants and bakeries for adapted delivery and takeout options
  • Take advantage of businesses offering special hours of service, for example, Dollar General’s “first hour” of business dedicated to senior citizens

“The Anniversary Song”

Brett and Jeannine Schoenecker; 2019

“As some people do, we first started out as friends…” said Brett Schoenecker, who was diagnosed with ALS over a year ago.

Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) is a progressive neurodegenerative disease that affects nerve cells in the brain and the spinal cord. Motor neurons reach from the brain to the spinal cord and from the spinal cord to the muscles throughout the body. When those motor neurons die, the ability of the brain to initiate and control muscle movement is lost. With voluntary muscle action progressively affected, patients in the later stages of the disease often become totally paralyzed, and the progressive degeneration of the motor neurons eventually leads to death.

How The Couple Met

Brett’s relationship with his wife, Jeannine, sparked from a seemingly innocent friendship. Working for the same company, Brett and Jeannine shared a common office friend group that often played sports together and met up after a long day at the office for beers and a bite to eat. One night after playing some wallyball, Brett and Jeannine found themselves as the first to arrive to the restaurant they and their friends had agreed to meet up at. As they normally would, they got to talking.

“We were just chatting and Brett asked me for some dating advice,” said Jeannine. “I was all in on giving some advice, but was shocked when the advice he was seeking was about me!”

And the rest is history, the couple agrees.

This is cliche, but we have always been best friends and supported each other no matter the circumstances. We have been and always will be a team, and a damn good one at that,” said Brett.

The story behind “The Anniversary Song”

Since he was in high school, Brett has been an avid singer and guitarist, playing in various bands throughout the area. And 23 years ago, he scored the chance to play at an outdoor Car Cruise. Brett and his band were ecstatic at the opportunity to play for an entirely new crowd. However, Brett soon realized that the date of the gig coincided with his first wedding anniversary with Jeannine.

After going back and forth on how to bring the subject up to Jeannine, Brett finally gained the courage and asked if it would be okay if the band performed on that night. To his surprise, Jeannine responded “sure!” without hesitation, and even offered to come and watch the band perform!

I knew I would want to make it up to her, so in the weeks before the show, I wrote “The Anniversary Song,” said Brett. “At the show, I played it for her and it has been very special to us ever since.”

The semi-biographical original begins by detailing the woes of Brett’s former love life. Determined to follow his own way, “never lonely“, and unbothered by the pressures of society to settle down, Brett was content on his own…

Until the night when his “eyes opened up” and he met Jeannine. After that, his life was changed forever, and the tone of the lyrics shift to emphasize Brett’s unwavering love and adoration for his new wife.

“Nothing on this earth could keep us apart,” he sings, as the intimate guitar solo emerges and Brett is “set free” from his former self. “You’re the one,” then repeats as the instruments slowly begin to fade out and the song comes to a close.

Since Brett’s diagnosis, the couple admits that the value of their time together has changed dramatically. Today, as they continue to battle ALS with the same positive and loving spirit that once sparked their relationship, they have made each other a promise; to live life according to their motto—

“make every day a good day.”

Listen to “The Anniversary Song:”