Mary Brennan-Druml has worked for 19 years on behalf of people with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS).
Often referred to as Lou Gehrig’s disease, ALS is a neurodegenerative disease that affects nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord.
Brennan-Druml has been affected by ALS throughout her life while she cared for Rebecca Bell Barbi, a close friend, and by the ongoing fight of her brother-in-law, Jeff Kaufman.
“ALS just strips you of all independence. You can’t talk or walk,” said Brennan-Druml.
Seeing what Barbi and Kaufman went through sparked Brennan-Druml’s desire to join the board of the Wisconsin Chapter of the ALS Association in 1997. She assumed her current role as president in 2007.
“My main job is to run the board of directors and conduct fundraising for our chapter to connect and partnership with,” said Brennan-Druml. “I love what I do.”
Brennan-Druml created “Team Rebecca” to care for Barbi, who passed away in 2005. Barbi was diagnosed with ALS in 2004 after the birth of her first son, Mick, and while she was pregnant with her second son, Billy.
Kaufman, a former lawyer and father to four diagnosed with ALS in 1989, is now paralyzed and bedridden. Brennan-Druml’s sister, Jan, has assumed primary care for her husband.
“All eleven of us siblings work together with our closest friend to fundraise and help fight with Jeff,” said Brennan-Druml.
In May 2009, Kaufman participated in a skin punch test, and was the first to donate his own skin cells for research for the Jeff Kaufman Project at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. The funding for the project is made possible by the proceeds of the chapter’s annual Evening of Hope.
“With our fight we can walk and talk for the people that cannot walk and talk for themselves,” said Brennan-Druml.
“Mary has a knack for networking and a gift for paring people with projects,” said Melanie Roach-Bekos, executive director at the ALS-Association Wisconsin Chapter, who nominated Brennan-Druml for a Health Care Hero Award. “Her goodness, selflessness and generosity serve as inspiration for all who know her.”
Brennan-Druml is also active at Christ King parish and is a board member at the St. Rose Youth and Family Center. The center provides residential treatment, family nurturing programs and respite care for girls and young women.
As a former nurse, Brennan-Druml says she is happy to assist wherever and whenever needed.