Link to Owner Dr. Robert B. Pamplin Jr.



Sam Beekman spends retirement from Boeing advocating, fundraising for ALS patients

Before amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) caused paralysis in his legs, Sam Beekman had run in the official Hood to Coast Relay for 20 years.

After the Fairview resident's diagnosis in 2013, he turned to his wife and said, "Let's go on another journey."

As part of that renewed spirit of adventure, in 2015, Beekman rode his wheelchair from Mount Hood to Seaside for a modified Hood to Coast route that he helped organize. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO - Sam Beekman, right, and Brian Epps start on a modified route of the Hood to Coast.

Beekman attempted to compete in the official Hood to Coast — a relay race held every summer since 1982 from Timberline Lodge on Mount Hood to Seaside on the Oregon coast — while in a wheelchair, but was denied by organizers. So he forged on, creating his own event while enlisting help of several law enforcement agencies to provide assistance with traffic controls. He completed the trek with a few other participants who use wheelchairs, and a couple of bicyclists also joined them.

"It was obviously special," he says of finding a way to complete the route again. "It brought back a ton of good memories."

Beekman, 66, and his friends finished the route again in 2016, but took much longer the second time — nearly a week as opposed to around 30 hours the first time — because they took breaks to sleep in hotels.

Persistence pays

Beekman clearly doesn't take getting told no lightly. OUTLOOK PHOTO: MATT DEBOW - Sam Beekman gets soaked during the ice bucket challenge on Aug. 10 at the Wood Village Fred Meyer.

This persistence could be seen at an ALS fundraising event at the Wood Village Fred Meyer store on Friday, Aug. 10, where he asked nearly everyone walking out of the store for donations — and wasn't discouraged by a majority of people who declined.

Beekman, who's wife of 47 years, Pam, is often by his side raising money for ALS research, including at the Fred Meyer event, where they helped raise $1,187.41.

During the fundraiser, Sam Beekman convinced a few people to take the Ice Bucket Challenge, which he did himself. The social media fundraiser dares participants to film themselves while dumping ice water on their heads, make a donation to the ALS Association then call on their friends to do the same. The challenge became a social media sensation in the summer of 2014, raising $115 million in July and August of that year. OUTLOOK PHOTO: MATT DEBOW  - Sam Beekman mingles with friends during a fundraiser on Aug. 10 at the Wood Village Fred Meyer.

While the popularity of the challenge has waned, it is still generating funds.

Fundraising for ALS research isn't exactly what Beekman had planned after retiring from his machinist job at Boeing in 2008.

"I retired with hopes of playing a lot of golf," he says.

Not only has Beekman successfully raised money for research, he also has spent time lobbying for laws that will assist ALS patients.

"I've always said you're part of problem or part of the solution. I'm able to be part of the solution, which makes me really feel valued," he says.

In 2014, Beekman was selected to represent the ALS Association's Oregon and Southwest Washington chapter, to lobby for federal laws in Washington, D.C.

"My job was to share the importance of supporting bills that are aimed at taking care of ALS patients," he says of the incurable disease that progressively takes away a person's nerve and muscle functions.

For example, it can take two years for patients to receive social security disability benefits.

"With lobbying in Washington, we got ALS patients fast tracked to five months," he says. "ALS is a time-sensitive disease in that 50 percent of those diagnosed die within the first 14 months."

Come what may

Beekman has survived past that mark, but signs of the disease's progression are now apparent: He uses a wheelchair, his voice has weakened and he needs a straw to drink. OUTLOOK PHOTO: MATT DEBOW  - Keyton Sweeney dumps a bucket of cold water on Donavon Morris while Barbie-Jo Bowen dumps water on Tan Butner in a  fundraiser on Friday, Aug. 10. All participants are Fred Meyer store employees raising money for research for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, also known as Lou Gehrigs disease.

"I've progressed from a cane to a walker to a part-time chair, and now I'm in a chair full time, and my caregiver has to do everything for me," Beekman explains, not wanting to sugarcoat his situation. "And I want to emphasize everything: (There's) nothing left to the imagination."

Beekman says his faith in God has helped him through this unexpected journey. One of his spiritual leaders once delivered a sermon titled "Come what may" that detailed how people are already equipped to handle whatever challenges they may encounter. OUTLOOK PHOTO: MATT DEBOW - Tan Butner shakes hands with Sam Beekman after she took the ice bucket challenge at the Wood Village Fred Meyer on Friday, Aug. 10.  6. Sam Beekman runs in the Hood to Coast before ALS took away the use of his legs.

"And that has been my charge," Beekman says. "My mantra is 'whatever we face, bring it on and do the best you're able.'"

ALS is commonly known as "Lou Gerhig's disease" because of the Yankees player whose baseball career came to an abrupt halt because of the disease. He brought attention to it by announcing his retirement after a game at Yankee Stadium in 1939.

"For the past two weeks you have been reading about a bad break," Gehrig says in the now famous speech. "Yet today I consider myself the luckiest man on the face of the Earth."

Gehrig's speech continues to focus on all the positive aspects of his life.

"That's the way I feel," Beekman says. "I have nothing to complain about. All my needs are met. It's just important that I do what I can to raise money and be an advocate."

CONTRIBUTED PHOTO - Sam Beekman runs in the Hood to Coast before ALS took away the use of his legs.

ALS walks

Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) is a rare, incurable disease that takes away a person's nerve and muscle functions over time.

The ALS Association host fundraising walks across the country every year to support research.

The Oregon and Southwest Washington chapters will host the Walk to Defeat ALS at noon Saturday, Sept. 22, at Esther Short Park, 605 Esther St., Vancouver, Wash.

The ALS Association's Oregon and Southwest Washington chapters will host the Walk to Defeat ALS at noon, Sunday Sept. 23, at the Portland World Trade Center, 26 S.W. Salmon St.

Both walks are a total of 3 miles.

To register, visit

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