Each scholarship recipient receives $5,000 annually through the organization’s Jane Calmes ALS Scholarship Fund to help cover education costs. Awardees for the 2020–21 school year live in 35 different states.
In addition to the physical and emotional toll ALS patients face, the disease can strain a family finances due to treatment costs and other expenses. Too often, college or vocational school expenses are too much for families to bear.
“Students from families that are dealing with, or have dealt with, ALS, are often overlooked and [are] collateral damage to the disease,” Mark Calmes, vice chair of the ALS Association board, said in a press release. “This damage can negatively impact people for a lifetime. The fund was created to help negate the damage and turn educational dreams into reality.”
“The financial burden of ALS is well documented and can devastate a family’s ability to make ends meet,” said Neil Thakur, the association’s chief mission officer. “We are honored to work with Mark to implement this important scholarship program, and we share his goal to make sure students impacted by ALS can still achieve their educational potential.”
The scholarship provides financial assistance to students pursuing an accredited college degree or vocational certificate, and who have trouble covering costs due to the financial burden of ALS.
Applicants must themselves be an ALS patient, or have a family member or guardian — living or deceased — diagnosed with ALS. They also must demonstrate financial need, and be a U.S. citizen enrolled or planning to enroll in a U.S. school.
In addition, applicants must either be a high school senior or graduate, current undergraduate student, or current enrollee in an accredited vocational program. They must also plan to enroll for a minimum of six credits per semester in undergraduate study at an accredited two- or four-year college or university, or at a trade school for the entire upcoming school year.
Awards are renewable for up to three years or until the recipient graduates or receives an undergraduate degree, contingent upon a satisfactory academic record.
Administered by Scholarship America, the fund was established last year by Calmes in honor of his wife, Jane, who died in 2017 of ALS complications eight years after her diagnosis. Early in her ALS journey, and after enduring a heart attack and breast cancer, she and her family formed what turned out to be a successful Walk to Defeat ALS team — Jane’s Angels. The team is in its 10th year.
“After Jane’s death, I began to think of ways to honor her and her courageous battle with disease, especially ALS,” Calmes states on the program’s webpage. “The idea of a scholarship fund resonated with me. Jane was always keen on education and the lifelong benefits it can provide. … So, as I thought about all of this, coupled with the fact that children of families dealing or having dealt with ALS are overlooked and are collateral damage to the disease, it made perfect sense to help these kids.”
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