Good things continue to happen because I have ALS. Friends and family have stepped up to help — and we do need help.

I’ve lost nearly all the strength in my fingers and hands, and my legs are now very weak. I’m using canes and a walker most of the time. A generous neighbor gave us the walker, which she had purchased for her mother three years ago.

A few weeks ago, my wife Linda broke her wrist trying to kill a snake (she hates snakes). She hit the snake with a shovel, but also hit a granite wall, breaking her right wrist. So now we have one left hand between us.

If you could see us trying to open a bottle of wine, you’d be amused. But a neighbor offered to come to the house every evening to open our wine for us.

I can’t praise our friends and neighbors enough for all their offers of help. As time goes on, this will be even more important. I am likely to be in a wheelchair sometime soon, and that’s when life will change dramatically.

ALS is an expensive illness, and even though I have great health insurance with Medicare and Martin’s Point Generations Advantage, co-pays can be high, and lots of things are not covered, from our expensive handicapped-accessible walkway to a van that can transport me in a wheelchair. We visited Mobility Works in Gray, which specializes in accessible vehicles, and decided the best choice will be a used vehicle.

I’m still doing a lot of writing, often using software that types my words as I speak them. And we now have a laptop that will allow me to write with my eyes. Amazing!

I’m also still doing talks. In June I spoke to the Winthrop Historical Society about my experiences growing up in Winthrop. There was a great turnout, with many who had also grown up in Winthrop, and it was an evening of conversations as we shared our experiences. It was lots of fun.

Linda and I have donated our woodlot to the Kennebec Land Trust. It will be named for my dad, Ezra Smith, and will focus on kids, including posters along the trails teaching them about the wildlife habitat they are seeing. And I’ve written a booklet of stories about my encounters with wildlife on the woodlot, which kids will get for free. I’m very grateful to all who donated to this project and helped clear the walking trails.

It was also neat when the woodlot received a grant from Maine’s Outdoor Heritage Fund, a project I initiated many years ago in a partnership between the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine and Maine Audubon.

The woodlot dedication is scheduled for this Saturday, Aug. 4, at 9 a.m., if you’d like to join us. Rain date is Sunday at 1:30 p.m. The woodlot is about a mile south of Mount Vernon village on Route 41 (Pond Road). Watch for the sign: Ezra Smith Wildlife Conservation Area.

I’ve also been pleased to link up with an old friend, Pam Taylor, and her husband Orm, whose former wife died of ALS, after which he and a friend started a nonprofit, the ALS Maine Collaborative. Their website offers lots of helpful links and information. A few weeks ago I met with Orm and Pam and some of his board members to give them fundraising and other advice.

The ALS Association’s Northern New England Chapter has been the most helpful, with everything from home visits and advice to equipment loans. Their staff — Mauret Brinser, Laurie McFarren, and Karla Wheaton — are phenomenal. Because they have given me so much help and encouragement, I am helping raise money for their two Maine fundraising walks in Bangor and Portland.

I am hoping you will join us at one of the walks. Our team name is “Give it the G.A.S. – Walk for George Arthur Smith!” My sister Edie is the team captain for the Bangor walk, which takes place Saturday, Aug. 25, with check-in at 8:30 a.m. My good friend Rusty Atwood is the team captain for the Portland walk, which takes place Saturday, Sept. 8, with check-in at 9 a.m.

To join us on one of the walks, click on the Bangor or Portland link, then click on red box in the upper left corner that reads “Join Our Team.”

If you have any problems registering, do not hesitate to contact Karla Wheaton. She is the event manager for the ALS Association Northern New England who coordinates both the Bangor and Portland walks. Please contact her at [email protected] or 712-3091.

George Smith can be reached at 34 Blake Hill Road, Mount Vernon, ME 04352, or [email protected]. Read more of Smith’s writings at www.georgesmithmaine.com.

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