TEAM GENE Raises Nearly $40,000 for ALS
Saturated sandbags anchoring tents at the ALS Mini-Walk for Team Gene reminded me of an article I wrote about Gene Anderson’s locksmith company when the Des Plaines River flooded his company’s former location. The headline above my October 22, 1986, Daily Herald byline read: “Teamwork Saved A Business.”
My interview with Gene, for my Kildeer community column, quoted his description of the damage floodwaters had done. “Our people were really great. They worked around the clock. Workers waded to work in hip boots and wore knee-highs inside. The secretaries took phone messages and handled mail from Brenda Asta’s nearby home, and did all kinds of extra work.
“It was total devastation. Yet, two blocks away, business for other people was going on as usual. Life goes on. My biggest feeling, looking back, is how great it was to see everyone really pitch in and work together to help our company.”
I concluded, “The rains stopped. The river receded. The saturated sandbags were moved away from the building.”
Now, Gene is retired, living in Arizona with the devastating diagnosis of ALS. But life goes on, and his daughter, Cortney Wascher, is leading the company he founded in 1960. When Cortney learned about ALS Mini-Walks to raise funds and awareness, she quickly signed-up with Chicago’s ALS Association to honor her father.
Thus, on August 24, Anderson Lock employees popped-up canopy tents in the parking lot to protect 100 pre-registered walkers from that day’s searing sun. Because they couldn’t put stakes into the asphalt, numerous sandbags were purchased to hold the tents in place. Lock techs arranged tables and chairs under the canopies, and tied red balloons to the top edges. The instant shelters also protected raffle prize baskets and the Cocina Chicago taco dinner set-up.
Hours of planning by dozens of employees created a spirited atmosphere in the office in the three weeks leading up to our ALS Mini-Walk. TEAM GENE T-shirts were ordered. Raffle prizes, donated by local businesses, big corporations and individuals sparked anticipation. Key signs were made to guide walkers throughout the two-mile route. Will Wascher stacked cases of water bottles and other beverages to prevent walkers’ dehydration. But the biggest excitement came when the first fundraising goal of $10,000, (which Anderson Lock matched) was reached a week ahead of the event! Our second goal of $15,000 was exceeded by more than 250%!
The ALS Association of Chicago gave guidance and encouragement, and supplied red wristbands, and lanyards which read, “Unlock ALS.” Laura Miller’s sister created large, bright yellow paper keys, which Cathryn Wascher attached to the lanyards. Cortney sent TEAM GENE T-shirts to her parents who wore them while filming a video thanking everyone for their contributions and cheering us on. ( Click to Download )
At the five o’clock start time, the hot parking lot overflowed with folks wearing red shirts. Then, clouds moved in, dropping the temperature by ten degrees. Cortney said a few words of welcome and we were off! I wish I had a drone photo of the stream of people, from toddlers in strollers to sprightly older walkers. All paraded proudly through the adjacent Des Plaines’ neighborhood.
Then the rain came. First in giant warm drops. It felt good. It felt fun! We increased our pace, but couldn’t increase it fast enough! We all got soaked. Drenched. Saturated! We shortened the route, returning with heads bowed against the faucet-like downpour.
Wet clothes, and rain which continued on and off for the next hour, didn’t deter anyone from enjoying the Taco Tuesday dinners, sponsored by Allegion. The winning numbers for raffle prizes were shouted out, and we thank the dozens of donors.
It took a lot of teamwork to put this event together with a short timeline. It is risky to name names when so many people volunteered their time and talents for TEAM GENE, but I would be remiss to not give a shout out to: Allison Martinec, Jessica Martin, Rose Umana, Erika Brand, Thomas Didier, and Chris Miller.
We didn’t expect the sandbags to be saturated, but by noon the next day they were loaded back into an Anderson Lock truck and hauled away, leaving behind only wonderfully satisfying memories of a very successful ALS Mini-Walk!
Teamwork Saved His Business in 1986
I am so moved by the whole event and in seeing/hearing from Gene. As I listened to him a flood of special memories came over me. This is especially meaningful since I’m at the end of my Master Lock career (only 7 more months!). Without any hesitation my 31 years of knowing Gene and his wonderful team (Rose, Jeffery, Cortney, Jim, Brenda, Laura, Kathi, and others) at Anderson Lock has been one of the highlights of my sales career. No other customer has even come close to being such a joy of working with and growing together, and successfully I might add. You have not only been my best customer, but have expanded my blessing by being my friend. Time moves on and lives change and eventually come to the end of the road, yet this is not a depressing thought since we have strived to live well and honor the Lord with our lives and opportunities.
I congratulate you all on honoring a man who certainly deserved to be recognized for not just building a successful business, but in what I believe is his most meaningful legacy – hiring, training, mentoring, and leading many to have successful and long careers as they served at Anderson Lock Company. I’d also add that that legacy is clearly living on with the leadership that Cortney is pouring into ALC that surely reflects the strengths and values that Gene led with. God bless you all.
Ray Green, Master Lock