All month, we are featuring stories of individuals who are having an impact in the fight against ALS.
Meet Lauren Duski and Ann Gillis. Lauren is a talented musician, storyteller, songwriter and devoted caregiver to Ann Gillis, an independent filmmaker living with ALS. With Ann’s encouragement and generosity, Lauren uprooted her life to pursue a country music career and become the successful musician she is today.
Since Lauren was a young girl, she was enthralled with country music. She started touring with a country band at age nine and continued throughout her childhood. In college, she made the choice to step away from music and attend the University of Michigan. But music was always in the back of her mind.
After graduation, while on a trip to Nashville, she met Ann and her husband, Marvin. In 2014, Lauren moved from Chicago to Nashville to immerse herself in the country music scene and return to her dream of having a music career. Ann was the reason she moved and has always been a huge advocate for her dreams.
In 2015, Ann was diagnosed with ALS. Following that diagnosis, Ann had been working with two caretakers, but one decided to leave. Lauren offered to stop by a few times a week to help out. Eventually that commitment became a mutual understanding that helping Ann was where Lauren was supposed to be. Ann and Marvin became family to Lauren. Working alongside Ann and watching someone she loves struggle with ALS is still extremely difficult.
“Since that first week helping Ann, I knew I wanted to become more involved with helping the fight against this disease, but never knew what that would entail,” Lauren says.
In 2016, Lauren was offered the opportunity to audition for NBC’s “The Voice.”
Lauren continues, “At first, I was hesitant because it meant leaving Ann, but she was the first person to tell me to do it. She practically pushed me out the door. It was so hard to be away from her, but The Voice gave me an opportunity and platform to tell Ann’s story.”
“I will never forget sitting in my hotel room, reading through messages in response to Ann’s story, feeling an immense amount of support and love from complete strangers. Every week there were hundreds of messages about their own experiences with ALS and it created a community that I never imagined I would form.”
“The biggest thing I’ve learned from Ann is that she has never allowed ALS to define her, she has always stayed true to who she is. I’ve watched it completely transform her life and health, but it has never impacted her spirit or soul. I hope to continue telling Ann’s story and bring more awareness to this heartbreaking disease. ALS really strips people of hope and joy, and music is such a powerful thing, that I hope we can bring hope and inspiration back to those fighting this disease.”
Please help Lauren and the thousands of ALS caregivers like her who are dedicating their lives to helping their loved ones defeat ALS.
Spread hope like Lauren and Ann. Donate today.