Char VanderLaan, more fondly known as Nana to her granddaughters Cassandra DeVos and Sydney DeVos Reames, became noticeably ill roughly one year before her Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) diagnosis. Following the identification of her illness in the fall of 2013, Nana, like many other ALS patients, progressively began to lose weight, develop pain in her muscles, and lose the ability to walk without the use of a cane or walker. Within a few months, the disease had affected her muscles so drastically that swallowing became almost impossible, forcing her to eat only liquids through a feeding tube and causing extreme loss of weight and energy. It was at this point that she began to require 24-hour nursing care - but with the help of friends and family, she tried her best to keep her spirits up. Despite the round-the-clock care, Nana VanderLaan succumbed to her illness on March 7, 2014 and is now in Heaven with her Lord, Jesus Christ.
Cassandra DeVos and Sydney DeVos Reames became involved with the ALS community when they learned of their Nana’s ALS diagnosis. While trying to accept the devastating diagnosis, they began to research the disease to learn how to help both their Nana and family through one of the most difficult times of their lives. In their research, they learned that there is no cure for the disease and also that there is a very low level of awareness about ALS within the general population. At that time, the two sisters decided they needed to do whatever was in their power to heighten awareness and hopefully, one day, find a cure. Since they are not only sisters, but also best friends, it was a perfect partnership for such an important event.
Cassandra and Sydney are proud to be born and raised in the great city of Grand Rapids. Cassandra is a graduate of the class of 2004 from Forest Hills Central High School. She graduated from Northwood University in 2009 and graduated with her law degree from Michigan State University College of Law in 2015. Sydney graduated from Forest Hills Eastern High School in the class of 2008. She graduated in the spring of 2014 with a major in Communications from Hope College and hopes to use her education to start a foundation to help others. Cassandra and Sydney are looking forward to raising awareness for ALS as well as learning and working with others who are impacted by this devastating disease.
“Always be full of joy in the Lord. I say it again – rejoice! Let everyone see that you are considerate in all you do. Remember, the Lord is coming soon. Don’t worry about anything; instead pray about everything. Tell God what you need and thank Him for all He has done. If you do this you will experience God’s peace, which is far more wonderful than the human mind can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.” - Philippians 4:4-7