Trying to stubbornly stomp out ALS

Grace Van Praet and Ryan Rusnak show they’re getting ready for the Stomping Buffalo 56, a 56 km run this fall for a group dedicated to raising funds to help fight ALS.

The Stubborn Buffalo hope to see a stampede down the rural roads of Chatham-Kent this fall, all for ALS research.

Members of the charity group Stubborn Buffalo Stomping Out ALS – family members of the late Adelard Van Praet – are adding an uber marathon to their list of fundraising activities.

Since the organization’s inception in 2007 in memory of Adelard, the group has raised more than $60,000.

ALS – amyotrophic lateral sclerosis – is a progressive neurodegenerative disorder. Also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, ALS attacks certain cells in the brain and spinal cord needed to keep muscles moving.

The Stubborn Buffalo team runs an annual golf tournament, as well as a Ride of Dimes stationary cycle event as well. All funds are donated to the ALS Society of Windsor-Essex.

This year’s Stubborn Buffalo golf tourney takes place Sept. 21. The Ride of Dimes took place in January and raised $350, Stubborn Buffalo team member Grace Van Praet said.

The group is also organizing a paint night and an axe-throwing event as well, Grace said.

Plus, local realtor Ryan Rusnak is involved with helping raise money. He is donating $300 from every home he sells until the end of April to Stubborn Buffalo.

To date, he’s donated $1,200.

“I wanted to partner with a charity that I can help with for a few months,” Rusnak said.

He is friends with Grace, whose father was a cousin of Adelard’s.

Grace said Rusnak also helped sponsor the golf tournament last year.

She added Adelard’s children, Addie, Ryan and Robert, and their spouses, do the heavy lifting for Stubborn Buffalo.

Ryan, who is legally blind, is a Paralympic athlete. He ran his first triathlon 15 years ago and is the driving force behind the Stubborn Buffalo 56, a 56K run that will start in Mitchell’s Bay and end in Erieau on Sept. 7.

A traditional marathon is 42 km. Anything over 50 km is considered an ultra marathon, Ryan said.

He doesn’t expect all participants to run the entire distance. Teams or families can run in a relay format as well.

“Solo crazy people are invited, but there can also be a relay component. You can meet up with a family member or friend at safe spots. Or if a team wants to take part…” he said.

Ryan added that despite the daunting distance, this isn’t a serious athletic event.

“It’s a fundraiser for ALS, but it’s also about celebrating life, celebrating the fact we can do crazy things like running and such. It’s focusing on the positive and the happy,” he said.

Why 56 kilometres? Ryan said that happens to be the distance from Mitchell’s Bay to Erieau, and Adelard, his father, was age 56 when he passed away.

“I’m going out as a personal challenge to myself, but want to make it so others can take part,” he said. “There will be no medals, no frills. This is more like an adventure than a race.”

He said at this time, Stubborn Buffalo is still working on the route, as well as the entry fee.

“This is informal. There will be no chip timing or anything. Come out and raise some money. Set a challenge with a group of friends and have some fun with it,” Ryan said.

Ryan said Stubborn Buffalo has more events up its sleeves. Members are working on a prediction run. Ryan said participants show up without knowing the length of the run.

“I will have a course measured out – it will be an odd length. You’d have to tell me your finishing time,” he explained.

The closest to their predicted completion time wins, not the fastest runner.

As well, participants won’t be able to wear a watch, have a cell phone or music player.

“You don’t have to be the fastest. We want to make our events as fun as possible. I want people who aren’t runners to take it on as a personal fun challenge,” he said.

The prediction run should take place sometime this spring, Ryan said.

The collective goal for Stubborn Buffalo is to raise $15,000 this year. Ryan said he likes to set the bar high, but doesn’t fret if they fall short.

“I’m a big believer in big, ridiculous goals. Even if you don’t make them, it’s fun trying,” he said. “We’re just nickel and diming. If we raise $100 a night, we’re still raising money. A few dollars here and there can certainly add up.”

Grace agreed, stressing their gatherings are as much about fun as they are fundraising.

“We raise funds for the ALS Society of Windsor-Essex and get people enjoying their lives a bit more,” she said.

For details on Stubborn Buffalo Stomping out ALS, or to keep tabs on their fundraising events, visit the group’s Facebook page at You can also contact Ryan directly at

Grace said many people don’t realize what ALS does to a person.

“I think people don’t understand it and they don’t realize how hard it is. You are just slowly losing yourself,” she said.


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