`Dogs Participating in Walk to Defeat ALS

By Theresa Kurtz

FRESNO, Calif. -- Fresno State softball head coach Trisha Ford wanted to get her team involved in the Fresno community and give back to those that support the Bulldogs. On Sept. 15, the 'Dogs will participate in their first community service event under Ford.

The Bulldogs will walk to defeat ALS, which is a two mile walk to raise money and awareness for ALS or Lou Gehrig's disease. The Walk to Defeat ALS is a familiar event that hits close to home for one Bulldog and the reason why the softball team is getting involved.

Ford and sophomore Taylor Green decided it would be a great way to give back to the community in way that also meant something to the team. Green's father, Steve, was diagnosed with ALS in 2003 and has been fighting the disease for almost 10 years.

"Last year, my family all got together and participated in the same walk down in Irvine," said Green. "My friends, family and I all helped raise awareness and money for ALS. This year, the team decided to participate in the walk in Fresno to give back to the community and to support me."

Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis or ALS, which is also referred to as Lou Gerhig's disease, is a disease of the nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord that control voluntary muscle movement.

It was not easy for Green to share with her new coach such a personal and important part of her life.

"It took a lot for Taylor to come in to my office and talk to me," said Ford. "It meant a lot to me. It was something very personal and with me just starting here, it's important for the team to know I care about them as a whole and not just as softball players."

Although she was nervous about what her new coach would think, Green knew that she needed to communicate with Ford that some days were harder than others.

"The second I told her it was a sigh of relief," explained Green. "It's a relief to know that I have a support system up here. It was nice to have that weight lifted off my shoulder and that she understood."

While in Fresno, Green has a great support system which consists of her roommates, coaches and teammates. She even has some family not too far down the road in Visalia.

It is her family that she really leans on for support and always has. One of the lessons she has learned over the years is getting connected to her family and being there for each other.

"My parents supported my sisters and I in every way that they could," said Green. "We are a family and they want to see us grow."

The biggest lessons she has learned from her dad during his fight, is to be with her family and cherish every moment.

"I've always been a family person, but this has taught me to get connected to my sisters, my mom, aunts, uncles and grandparents," said Green. "It has taught me to be a better person within my family, friends and in general. With my dad I've learned to appreciate every chance that I get. You never know when it will be the end."

Coach Ford noticed right away that Green's perspective on life was not the same as her teammates. Ford saw that Green has a more grown up approach to life compares to her fellow Bulldogs.

"I am not sure how much she realizes it or not, but she appreciates everything and every moment," Ford said. "She doesn't take anything for granted."

It is not easy for Green to be away from home, both her sisters are still at home with her parents. But, through technology, she is able to easily stay in contact with her dad.

"He has a phone number, so I can keep in contact with him through text message or email," Green explained. "I just can't call, which is okay because I email him to keep in contact while I am up here."

The technology that is out there also allows her dad to work.

"With technology he is able to communicate," said Green. "He has a machine called Tobi which he uses to communicate. He types in the words and it can speak or he can just text us. With that he still works on the computer and he also has a keyboard on the screen that helps him talk and do his work."

Her parents make it to almost all the home games in Fresno. Her father played baseball when he was younger, so softball is their common bond.

"He still has a joy for the game, like I do," said Green. "It's our bond. He was my coach when I was younger until he got sick. Without softball it's weird. That's how we bond together."

Green admires not only her dad, but also her mother, Chris. Green's mother has taken care of the whole family for as long as Green can remember and never complained.

"She takes care of my dad every day with his lifestyle," Green said. "She helps him and my grandpa, me, my sisters and everyone. She helped out with my travel ball team and my high school team. She was always involved no matter what. She is known as the saint in our family and we call her that."

Green's approach to softball and life may differ from her teammates, but to her it's normal and just another day, which she is grateful to have with her dad and family.

"There is no normal to us, but to us it is normal," said Green. "It takes a lot to balance everything. It was a stressful situation at first and you don't know how to react to it, but you just take it day by day and handle it."

For anyone who would like to donate or join softball's walking team "Iron Horse Fighters" on Sept. 15 click here for more information or contact the softball office.