Father of Regal receives an ‘outpouring of love, prayers and support’ in ALS fight


Photo Courtesy of Lesley Heller

Kevin Heller, who was diagnosed with ALS in July 2019, rides tandem with his brother during the Sept. 26 Napa Valley Ride to Defeat ALS.

Erica Gaertner, Reporter

Before Kevin Heller was diagnosed with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), also known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease, in July 2019, he was a triathlete.

In honor of Heller’s passion for sport, over one hundred of his friends, community and family members came together in the Napa Valley Ride to Defeat ALS on Saturday, Sept. 26.

“Seeing [him] still being able to ride with the help of his brother John on a tandem bike was wonderful,” Heller’s sister, Carol Ann Redfield said. “Riding is something that has always made Kevin happy, and in everyday life due to ALS he has become a prisoner in his body.”

ALS is a fatal, neurodegenerative illness that affects nerve cells in the brain and the spinal cord.  The life expectancy of a person with ALS is two to five years after diagnosis.

Kevin Heller’s daughter, Lauren Heller, competes for the Regals Volleyball team and garnered the support of her team to take part in the ALS ice bucket challenge following Kevin’s diagnosis in August 2019.

Since then, there has been an outpouring of “love, prayers and support” from the Cal Lutheran athletic community, according to an Instagram post from Lesley Heller, Kevin’s wife.

“He is a supportive father, a loving husband … he continues to face this battle … every day with the same mindset he had before he was diagnosed, which is to make the most of each day, to never take a day for granted and to appreciate the people that are around you,” Regals Volleyball Assistant Coach Nicki Tetherow said in an Instagram TV video. “Kevin, I can’t thank you enough for the impact you’ve had on my life and for the impact you’ve had on anyone you’ve met.”

The Heller family has received social, emotional and physical support for Kevin through the ALS Association Golden West Chapter.

According to the Golden West Chapter website, their mission “is to discover treatments and cures for ALS, and to serve, advocate for, and empower people affected by ALS to live their lives to the fullest … [Their] vision to create a world without ALS.”

According to Cliff Whitlock, the Napa Valley Ride to Defeat ALS director, the Golden West Chapter has a three-prong approach to assisting people with ALS–care, advocacy and research.

Whitlock said the chapter strives to provide compassion and care for the families involved, as well as advocate for awareness and conduct research.

None of this work would be possible without the fundraising provided by events like the ride in September, Whitlock said.

Despite COVID-19 limiting the capacity for large gatherings, 125 people participated in the event and about 80 rode with Kevin.

Redfield said Kevin’s favorite sport brings the family together in an “extra special” way.

Since Kevin’s diagnosis, the Hellers have been committed to doing what they can to help defeat ALS, and a diary of the family’s efforts to combat the disease can be found at @giveemheller on Instagram.