WATERLOO, Iowa (KCRG) - Board games are a big tradition during Staebell family gatherings. “Corkle” is one of their favorite games. While it gets competitive, it's also a way of bonding.
"Cherish the moments you have, and not focus on the disease,” said Stacy Staebell, who is Rita Staebell’s daughter.
Moments together are becoming more precious after doctors diagnosed Rita Staebell last year with ALS. She's a wife, a mom and a grandma. Overall, the rock of the family.
"You go through a wave of emotions,” said Staebell. “Denial, then more denial, and acceptance and feeling bad for her."
ALS has no cure. It affects the nerve cells in the brain and spine.
"The disease affects each person differently,” said Denise Hoffman, Rita’s daughter. “A lot of people with ALS start with different limbs as far as muscle control. My mom's has been with her voice, and her swallowing."
That’s why Rita uses a voice device to communicate.
Rita isn't the first person in her family to have ALS. It killed her brother Bruce in 1991.
"It worries me that they don't know if there's a genetic link in our family,” said Staebell. “It bothers me that there's no cure, and that money for research didn't start, there really wasn't no money for research until the ice bucket challenge."
That's why the family raised thousands of dollars to help fight the disease.
Taking part in the ALS Walk on Sunday wasn't just a rally for Rita.
"I would like to continue to do the walk every year as long as my family is willing because I think it's important,” said Hoffman. “The goal is to raise the awareness to find the cure, to find something that can actually help the people who are living with ALS so the disease doesn't progress."
Through it all, Rita keeps smiling, her family and friends are ready to support her and others battling ALS in their journey. "She's an amazing woman,” Hoffman said of her mom. “Been my best friend since I was born."
"When she was diagnosed, she didn't even want to tell her friends, but she's had such an outpouring of support from family and friends,” said Staebell. “It's amazing, and I think that's what keeps her going."
Click here to learn more about ALS, and how to donate to the cause.