Woodworking hobby helps man with ALS keep going

March 13, 2008 10:24:16 AM PDT
Each year, more than 5,500 people in the United States are diagnosed with ALS. It's a devastating disability.

Five years ago, a northwest Indiana resident was told he had ALS. It's slowly robbing him of his first love, woodworking.

Fifty-six-year-old Bill Schmitt is an amazing craftsman. He has built all of his family's furniture. Woodworking is not his career but a hobby that keeps him going.

Coffee tables, bedroom sets, cabinets. These are just a few things that Bill Schmitt has built over the last 40 years.

"Built my first garage when I was 17 years old I was an engineering manager actually with Viock Communications. When I was there I had group of nine engineers spread cross the country that worked for me, so I've always been kinda in technical field and a lot of hands on," said Schmitt.

After Bill was diagnosed with ALS in 2003, he stopped working as an engineer and spent all his time woodworking, which slowly is becoming difficult.

"I used to be able to build for example a lot of large projects. I built bedroom sets, I've built garages, I've built room editions, I've done all kind of stuff, but right now I kinda settle on the smaller things, because they're easier for me to carry, and materials are much smaller, and it's just easier for me to do," Schmitt said.

Bill's 11-year-old son Ryan helps him with his projects.

"You know, even a couple of years ago, I used to be able to just horse the piece of wood around door push it through my saw real easy, but now it's more of, I've gotta come up with a jig or a fixture or something else so that I can safely hold it," Schmitt said.

Bill's work is very detailed.

"I have been heavily involved with the Les Turner ALS foundation and with their fundraising I have done some of the Walks for Life. Lat year I was named the patient of year. I have donated two jewelry boxes now to them," said Schmitt.

ALS not only affects the individual, families also go through it. Carrie says her independent husband needs help.

"He gets tired easily, so we can't just get up and go, we always like to get up and do and do a lot of things and we can't do that any longer. It seems that he gets tired," said Carrie.

"One of the biggest messages is that, you know, you always wanna say that it could never happen to you. Well it can happen to you, and the big key is life goes on, you do what you gotta do and, you know, you can't let it consume you, you can't let it be your focus, you've gotta do something else," Schmitt said.

Bill was one of the people featured in the 2008 ALS Les Turner Foundation Calendar. For more information go to www.lesturnerals.com.