The ALS Association is pleased to announce a new scholarship program that will fund up to $5,000 per year for at least 30 students whose personal or family finances are compromised by the financial burden of ALS.
The Jane Calmes ALS Scholarship Fund was established by Mark Calmes, vice chair of The ALS Association’s National Board of Trustees. The scholarship fund is named in honor of his late wife, Jane, who fought ALS for eight years and passed away in August 2017.
“Jane amazed me every day,” Mark says. “She was a fighter who battled three illnesses in a row – a silent heart attack, breast cancer, and then ALS. After she died, I began to think of ways to honor her courageous spirit and compassion. The idea of a scholarship program resonated with me because Jane was always keen on the lifelong benefits provided by education.”
Born in Coffeyville, Kansas, Jane Calmes grew up in Neodesha, Kansas, and attended Kansas University and Wichita State University where she graduated magna cum laude with a Bachelor of Science degree in Health Science/Dental Hygiene. She and Mark met on a blind date and were married two years later in 1980, eventually settling in Forsyth, Illinois.
The couple soon started a family, and Jane relished her role as mother to their two sons and twin daughters. “In the early days of our marriage, I traveled a lot for my job,” Mark says. “Jane not only worked but managed the household and four kids alone while I was gone. Jane handled it all willingly and lovingly. That speaks volumes.”
When she was diagnosed with ALS in 2009, the Calmes family was both devastated and heartbroken, but they rallied together to support Jane. Jane’s children each stepped in to help Mark with her care at various stages in her battle with ALS, with their daughters providing primary care for the first five years of Jane’s journey while Mark was at work.
“It is very difficult to watch a parent who loved life so much, lose the ability to live life to the fullest,” says Jane’s daughter, Kim. “I hated seeing her in pain and have to struggle and fight so much.”
Shortly after Jane’s diagnosis, the Calmes family became involved with the St. Louis Regional Chapter and participated in their local Walk to Defeat ALS in Springfield, Illinois. Since 2010, Team Jane’s Angels has been the top fundraising team in Springfield – and one of the highest performing teams in the nation – raising more than $657,000 to support the mission of The ALS Association.
As the disease progressed, Jane was placed on a ventilator and eventually became bedridden. Even so, she remained an example of strength and bravery to her family and friends.
“Jane inspired me,” Mark says, “especially with the courage she exhibited dealing with this disease and the compassion she showed our family and others during her journey.”
Eight years after she was diagnosed, Jane lost her battle with ALS in 2017. To honor her and her fierce devotion to her family – especially as a mother living with ALS – Mark decided to create the Jane Calmes ALS Scholarship Fund to help those financially burdened by ALS realize their dreams of college or vocational school.
Recognizing students from families dealing or having dealt with ALS are often overlooked and collateral damage to the disease, Mark says it made perfect sense to create a means to help them. “This collateral damage, which can affect and negatively impact people for a lifetime, needed to be addressed.”
“The financial burden of ALS is well-documented and can devastate a family’s ability to make ends meet,” said Dr. Neil Thakur, executive vice president of mission strategy for The ALS Association. “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.”
Jane’s children believe their mother would be proud and honored by their father’s efforts to put this scholarship fund together. They remember their mom as a warrior and a role model who valued education and epitomized determination.
Collectively, they said, “Having a parent with an incurable disease taught us about love, sacrifice, strength, and kindness. Our mom never gave up, even when there was no hope. Our dad made it a mission to fight this disease. He has done it by providing the best possible care for our mom while she was fighting this disease, and he keeps her spirit alive.”
Applications for the first scholarship awards, which will be distributed for the fall 2019 semester, are being accepted through May 21, 2019.
To apply for The Jane Calmes ALS Scholarship Fund awards, donate to the scholarship fund, or get additional information, please visit http://www.alsa.org/CalmesScholarshipFund.
The Jane Calmes Scholarship Fund is being administered by Scholarship America.