On Thursday, August 24th, at Hensville Park in downtown Toledo, Ohio, a community will come together at the Toledo Takes on ALS brewfest. The event will include live music, food, and beer from dozens of local breweries, with all proceeds benefitting ALS research. Most importantly, it will represent the culmination of an incredible effort by John and Tracy Schinharl to do some good in the face of an unimaginable challenge – John’s diagnosis of ALS.

“We've always felt through our entire life that you don't just sit by the sidelines,” Tracy says. “No matter what happens, you're supposed to be actively doing something for the betterment of the common good and your fellow man. So, throughout our lives, whenever we've had a challenge, we've always said, ‘well, what can we do?’”

Reflecting this sentiment, the couple began thinking about ways they could join the fight against ALS soon after John was diagnosed in November of 2022. After traveling to Massachusetts to tour the ALS Therapy Development Institute (ALS TDI), the decided they would dedicate their efforts to raising funds and awareness to support research. They also discovered a fundraising program that aligned with their personal interests – Ales for ALS™, a program that works with brewers around the country to create unique beers and raise money for ALS research at ALS TDI.

“Once the initial shock wore off, John immediately said, ‘you know what? I'm here and there's something I can do,’” Tracy remembers. “He knew he wanted to raise some money to do something about this disease. John likes beer, and we like to go to craft breweries with our friends. So, when we learned about Ales for ALS™ we thought: ‘this is perfect.’”

After reaching out to the Ales for ALS™ team, John and Tracy decided that they would put together a beer festival in Toledo. Throughout their 33 years of marriage, the couple has surrounded themselves with a large community ­– their friends and family, including four children and four grandchildren, their church, and the business associates John met during his long career as a banker. Utilizing these connections, they began approaching brewers to participate, as well as individuals and organizations to sponsor the event.

The response was beyond anything they could have anticipated. Friends and business associates from throughout John’s career rallied around the family, donating money, time, and helping to spread the word throughout the Ohio and nearby Michigan Beer communities. Soon, more than 25 breweries were signed up to serve beer at the festival, along with food vendors, and bands – most of them personally recruited by John and Tracy and their Friends.

Even more striking, the event quickly exceeded all fundraising expectations. As of August 1st, more than three weeks before the festival, they have already raised more than $250,000 for ALS research. This number is even more impressive because, determined to make the event accessible to all members of the community, John and Tracy decided to keep tickets priced at only $10. The vast majority of this fundraising total comes from the people John touched throughout his life and career – who, Tracy says, needed little convincing to offer their support to their colleague and friend.

I won't say it's been easy, because John’s put in the work,” she says, “but, honestly, all it took for him was to alert the people about what's going on with him personally, and every single one of them says, ‘okay, what can we do?’” 

Tracy believes John’s network has been so eager to help, in particular, because of the way he treated his clients throughout his long career.

“They’re doing this because of who he is and everything that he has accomplished,” she says. “Every time we would entertain clients, they would always say to me ‘we want to work with John because we know when he does something in business, he's not doing it because he wants a bonus. He's doing it because it's the right thing for their company.’ That's why they're throwing as much money as they are, because of who he is.”

The Toledo Takes on ALS brewfest will take place on August 24, 2023 at Hensville Park in Toledo, Ohio. You can learn more, buy tickets, and donate to support John and Tracy’s efforts to raise funds for ALS research here: https://fundraise.als.net/toledo

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