Ever since Jessica Baluyot was a child, she had a deep interest in art and creativity. Through hard work and dedication, she became a digital product and graphic designer in Los Angeles. While working within this industry, Jessica has held a passion for design for accessibility and inclusivity. This focus is fueled by the memory of her grandfather, Jesus, who died from ALS in 2011.
Jessica was in college at Cal Poly Pomona when her grandfather was diagnosed with the devastating neurodegenerative disease. Before this moment, she knew her grandfather, whom she called “Papa”, as a lively person who taught ballroom dancing and loved spending time with his grandchildren. “He and my grandma always welcomed people to stay in their home even though their space was very small,” Jessica explained. “He was always such a generous and giving person who always wanted to provide a better life for his family.” One of Jessica’s greatest memories with her grandfather was when he choreographed and danced with her for her debut, a traditional coming-of-age celebration in the Filipino community.
Jesus’ first symptoms of ALS were the weakness and swelling in his legs. After being diagnosed with ALS, he lived with the disease for a short nine months. It was not until after Jesus passed that Jessica and her family discovered the services that the Golden West Chapter of The ALS Association offers. In 2012, Jessica and her family attended their first Inland Empire Walk to Defeat ALS, as “Team De Guzman,” in memory of her late grandfather. The legacy of Team De Guzman has continued year after year.
Getting involved with chapter-sponsored events allows people like Jessica to connect with other families, friends, and supporters that all have one thing in common – fighting against ALS. “The ALS community is so kind, passionate, and supportive,” said Jessica. “I’ve met wonderful people who are going through or share similar experiences who are making such a huge impact for the community.”
While attending the Walk to Defeat ALS in the Inland Empire, Jessica made a connection with longtime chapter supporter Anastasia Arnestad, who also lost her grandfather to the disease. The two both went to Cal Poly Pomona and connected through their similar journeys. Jessica’s never give up spirit and her background in graphic design gave Anastasia, who is a part of the SoCal Ride and Rally to Defeat ALS Planning Committee, the idea to invite Jessica to utilize her professional skills in a meaningful way.
Jessica graciously volunteered to design this year’s cycling kit for the SoCal Ride and Rally to Defeat ALS and Napa Valley Ride to Defeat ALS and Walk. She entitled the design “Empowerment,” creating something truly spectacular for the events. “My inspiration behind the ride kit came from being a part of this community and the connections I’ve made. The converging and diverging lines are representative of people coming together at different parts of their journey,” Jessica explained.
Jessica continues to keep her Papa’s legacy going strong with continuous support to the ALS community. “It was so heartbreaking to see my papa go from a dancing king to not being able to perform basic functions. ALS is a devastating disease that I hope no one has to go through,” Jessica elaborated. “The Chapter is a great community offering support and assistance for those who do need it. Because of them, families can better navigate through this awful disease.”