I was born in Alabama in 1947 and moved to Illinois at the age of 16. After graduating high school in 1965, I enlisted in the US Navy where I served four years. Like many veterans, the power of community has always compelled me to give back in service to others.
After my time in the military, I got involved locally with many different organizations, like the Boys and Girls Club and Kiwanis International. At one point, I volunteered as the Vice President, and then President, for the Redlands Morning Club, and also served as a Board Member of the Family Service Association of Redlands. During this time, my wife, Anne, and I had three children. After two decades working in the transportation industry, I created and ran my own business, Leonard’s Catering, specializing in barbecue, for 23 years before retiring in 2016.
Anne and I moved in 2018 to be closer to our youngest son, so we could pour love into our grandchildren. But in July 2021, after noticing changes in my speech, our lives changed dramatically when I was diagnosed with ALS. I was surprised to learn that ALS is a service-related, neurodegenerative disease and that people who have served in the military are twice as likely to be diagnosed than the general population.
ALS is life-altering and is so hard on everyone. There are days I don’t want to go out because of the physical challenges of the disease. Since my ALS diagnosis, I am very sad that I can no longer be an avid spokesperson with Kiwanis International at our yearly conventions. I have to communicate with devices, and that’s difficult because changes in my vision came to the point where I could no longer operate my eye gaze system.
Knowing the power of community service organizations, we connected with the Golden West Chapter in August 2021 and were partnered with a Regional Care Manager free of charge. Her extensive knowledge of ALS and local resources have been indispensable for our family. She has helped us cope with changes in my daily life including loss of speech, difficulty swallowing, and advice regarding the placement of a peg tube.
My Care Manager also helped me with much needed durable medical equipment, through the Chapter’s loan program, like a shower chair that my insurance wouldn’t cover. Through the Chapter’s support groups, we were connected to more key ALS services. They have also been a place of reprieve for Anne, who is my main caregiver.
The ALS community needs people to help raise ALS awareness and funds. That’s why my family and I formed Team Snyder and participated in the Golden West Chapter Walk to Defeat ALS. Each of us decided to “Walk-Our-Way” from our neighborhoods thanks in part to the Walk Day kits we received as registered Walk Team Captains. Anne walked with me at our local park, sharing our ALS story with everyone we met.
To all of those who have been touched by ALS, be kind to yourselves and don’t be afraid to talk about this disease. My motto amongst my circle of support is, “I love you and you can’t do anything about it!” I hope you will join me and get involved with the Golden West Chapter. Together we can serve the ALS community.
Leonard “Leo” Snyder
Seaman, United States Navy
Team Captain, Walk to Defeat ALS