Alex's Army is on the march - literally.
Local volunteers of all ages working to support Alex Hermstad, a Storm Lake teenager stricken by a mysterious, undiagnosed illness that has gradually robbed her of all ability to move, speak and breathe are planning the "Walk for Hope, Faith & Courage" on July 5 in Storm Lake to assist the family.
The walk will begin at 10 a.m., with supporters gathering around 9:15 at Sunset Park. They will walk to King's Pointe and back, but participants may go as far as they wish. A hogroast picnic and raffle will follow.
The Iowa Games have even loaned the organizers their torch to use for the walk.
Organizers are hoping to be able to offer a live music group as well.
Anyone wishing to register can find a form on page 8A of today's Pilot-Tribune, or see www.caringbridge.com/visit/angelsforalex for more information. It is requested that participants sign up before June 25 if possible, as t-shirts will be provided.
"We are so fortunate to have so many good people who have been wonderful to support us through this," Alex's mom, Lori, said.
"I was a little worried about taking on an event like this when they started talking about a walk, but it has really taken on a life of its own."
A booth is also planned for the 4th of July events to benefit Alex. Volunteers will be selling 4th of July novelty items and crafts being made for the event. Some of the youngest members of Alex's Army will be walking in the Star Spangled Spectacular Parade with a banner promoting the upcoming walk.
For those who can't participate in the walk, donations can be made to:
Angels for Alex
c/o MetaBank Attn: Tracee Dierenfield
PO Box 1307
Storm Lake, IA 50588
While the illness that has so frustrated the family since 2005 still has no diagnosis, the Hermstads' efforts are beginning to show light at the end of the tunnel.
"Some doors are opening just a bit," Lori says.
Presidential candidate Barack Obama, who promised to help earlier, has made a personal call on Alex's behalf to the Oprah Winfrey show, urging Oprah to put the story on the air in hopes to getting the information before some medical expert who may be able to help dignose the illness.
An Oprah staff member said no decision has been made, as Oprah is not currently taping, but added that the show has received numerous contacts from Alex's supporters, which have been passed on to the top producers for consideration.
A video about Alex's plight has been posted on youtube web site, and local media studies professor Jerry Johnson is heading up an effort to produce a full documentary about Alex, also in hopes of stirring medical help that currently is eluding the family.
Lori has also been contacted by a woman who has a daughter in a similar plight, and made aware of a new Undiagnosed Disease Program, which was to be introduced this week on NBC Evening News. The woman's daughter, Mandy, is the program's first poster child, and a personal friend of former "Growing Pains" star and program supporter Kirk Cameron.
That family has nominated Alex for the program, based out of the National Institute of Health in Maryland. With help from Alex's doctor, her records were sent for review by the NIH team of 30 specialist doctors and stem cell research expert.
If they accept her case, Alex will be flown expenses paid to Bethesda for four days of intense study by the team.
"It will be a while before we hear if she is accepted, but this is huge," Lori said.