SPOKANE, Wash. – One Spokane man is training to compete in the Coeur d'Alene Triathlon for the first time, specifically to raise money to support people battling ALS.

While Jeff Thaxton trains in the heat of the Spokane summer, he does a lot of thinking about his close friend’s father Dennis. He was recently stripped of life by ALS.

“The mind is still there but the body just shuts down,” said Thaxton.

He is also thinking of the cheerful resident at the Fairwinds retirement community where he works as a fitness instructor. He watched as ALS marched in and took her too. On top of that, ALS is also attacking one of Jeff’s childhood football teammates.

“I was privileged to play on Steve Gleason’s junior high football team,” said Thaxton.

ALS has robbed Gleason’s body of movement. While his mind remains sharper than ever, he breathes with a ventilator and types with his eyes.

“I just admire his whole attitude and the way he goes about life,” he explained.

Thaxton trains for this trio of people. He will be competing in his first grueling Coeur d’Alene triathlon to raise money for Team Gleason, Steve’s organization dedicated to fighting ALS and helping people living with the disease.

“I had a personal fundraising goal of raising $1,500 for Team Gleason,” said Thaxton.

He sees the reward of his work every day through his job as a fitness instructor at the Fairwinds retirement community.

“When you see someone who’s able to walk easier or they don’t have as much hip pain or they feel more stable so they’re not as scared about falling,” Thaxton explained.

He hopes to make a difference in the fight against ALS too. Until there is a cure, he knows the disease needs people to stand up and make a difference, just like Steve Gleason does. In fact, the way Gleason tackles life not is a lot like he did as a kid. When he decided he wanted to make a tackle, he would. In many ways, he is still the fastest player. When he decided to improve the lives of others struggling under the crushing weight of ALS, he got there faster and with more impact than just about anyone else.

As for running, biking and swimming, Thaxton will take over where Gleason cannot. He will push past his comfort zone toward a new physical goal. All the while, he will be thinking of those he is racing for. The many people he knows and the many more he does not know struggling through a relentless disease.

If you would like to help Jeff reach his fundraising goal, you can donate online on his Team Gleason "First Giving" page.