After losing his grandfather to ALS, Jesse Haws is all too aware of the terrible toll this incurable disease takes on both the impacted individuals and their families.
“A lot of stress, fear, and worry accompanies ALS,” said Haws, the owner of Haws Insurance Services in Mesa, Arizona. “I wanted to give families a mental break from that.”
Tossin’ Away ALS, the nonprofit Haws founded with his wife, Eliza, helps patients and families in Arizona create positive experiences—which can take many different forms. The organization has arranged travel so an individual with ALS could visit her elderly mother, for instance; in other situations, family members come to visit a patient and the whole group enjoys an activity. Tossin’ Away ALS even has facilitated such simple requests as providing one woman with a salon haircut and styling session in her home.
“My family hasn’t laughed like that in three years. Thank you for helping us feel normal again!”
—Family member following a Tossin’ Away ALS experience
“It’s really about whatever helps create memories,” said Haws, who serves as president of the organization. “It’s not necessarily something fancy or extreme.” Even when the support might seem basic, though, the impact is anything but. “My family hasn’t laughed like that in three years,” one person told Haws after the experience Tossin’ Away ALS enabled. “Thank you for helping us feel normal again!”
Bringing families together
Tossin’ Away ALS, which has a board of community members who manage day-to-day operations, plans to support three or four families in 2020. And later this year, the goal is to sponsor events that allow multiple families to get together—such as renting out a theater, holding private dinners, or taking a group to a baseball game. “These are wonderful families, all facing similar challenges,” Haws said. “We want to help them be around each other.”
The organization raises funds largely through its annual cornhole tournament—the bag-throwing game that gives Tossin’ Away ALS its name. In the six years since its inception, the event has raised over $80,000 for families and ALS research.
Doing ‘whatever it takes’
“Jesse and Eliza, along with Haws Insurance, have always gone all-out for Tossin’ Away ALS,” said board member Janna Stevens, who lost her father to ALS in 2008 and first got involved with the organization in 2015. “They sponsor events, donate time and money, and do whatever it takes to help ALS patients and their families.”
Stevens believes cornhole is a great way to draw attention to the cause—because it’s what got her involved. “My husband plays a lot,” she said, “and when we found out there was a tournament in support of this, we knew we needed to attend.”
A 2020 Liberty Mutual and Safeco Insurance Make More Happen Award should draw additional attention, and provide support for more ALS families, too. The honor comes with a donation of up to $10,000 to Tossin’ Away ALS on behalf of Haws Insurance Services.
“During my grandpa’s battle with ALS, my family focused so much on helping him survive that we forgot to enjoy life,” Haws said. “This award will help give other ALS families and patients an escape, even for just a little while, to make positive memories together.”