A strong-willed man and a fun-loving prankster, Ronnie Townsend was “a character,” according to his sister Karen Hicks.
Being diagnosed with ALS didn’t change that one bit.
“He was a brother and he aggravated me to death,” Karen says, chuckling. “He aggravated me until the day he died.”
She was the youngest girl in the family, and he was the oldest and only boy. After their dad died, Ronnie became a sort of father figure to the girls and always looked out for them.
“He was a great force in our family,” she says.
Self-educated, he built a successful general contracting business from scratch and was a hardworking guy. Ronnie was diagnosed with Bulbar ALS after he started having trouble speaking coherently.
“His speech started getting worse, like someone who’d had a stroke, kind of stuttering and you couldn’t understand it,” Karen says.
MDA provided equipment for him and taught his sisters how to use it. MDA helped the family with whatever they needed, Karen says.
“They would have provided the wheelchair for him, but he was bound and determined that he wasn’t sitting in a wheelchair,” she recalls. “He wasn’t getting in a hospital bed, a lift chair, or anything because he just thought if he got in a bed he wasn’t ever going to get up.”
A year and a half after his diagnosis in July 2013, Ronnie passed away.
“He fought his ALS like he did life,” she says. “He really didn’t complain about it. He just took it as it came.”
An apartment manager in Texas, Karen just participated in her second MDA Lock-Up in her brother’s honor.
MDA Lock-Up is a fun and inspiring community event that unites business leaders to raise funds and awareness to help kids and adults break free from the harm of muscle-debilitating diseases. Business leaders join forces with MDA by agreeing to be “locked up” while they raise money for their “bail,” which helps bring more everyday freedoms to kids and adults with muscular dystrophy, ALS and related diseases that take away physical strength and mobility.
Karen’s Lock-Up event was held at a restaurant in Tyler, Texas in mid-May, and she sported a black and white striped jumpsuit to go “behind bars” to raise funds for MDA. She was even brought to the event in a police car — which Ronnie would have certainly enjoyed seeing.
As she says, she “gladly accepted the challenge.”
“You reach out in all different directions — the vendors I work with, to the people I work with, friends and family,” Karen says. “Most people, because they know of the struggle of muscle disease and they’re so close to my family, they want to help.”
The event went well, she says, and during that single day she raised nearly $700 for MDA families like hers. Karen would like to continue volunteering her time with the MDA Lock-Up for as long as she can.
“It’s very rewarding that I can help somebody who helped my family,” she says of raising funds for MDA. “It makes it easier to go in there and say, ‘Hey I’ll do whatever it takes to raise money for you.'”
Even if that means becoming a jailbird for a day.