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Often Awesome film festival fundraiser entertains and enlightens

by Keith Barber

Dozens of fans and friends of Tim LaFollette and his wife, Kaylan “” otherwise known as the “Often Awesome Army” “” braved the wintery weather and descended upon Carousel Luxury Cinemas in Greensboro for the first annual a Very Merry Often Awesome Film Festival on Dec. 12. The film festival fundraiser marked the one-year anniversary of “Often Awesome: The Series,” the web-based documentary series that has chronicled Tim’s struggle with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, better known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease.

The film festival is the most recent in a series of fundraisers on Tim’s behalf as he continues his battle against ALS. Lis Tyroler, Tim’s care coordinator, expressed the significant need for continued financial support in her recent blog post on the Often Awesome website. In an open letter to the Often Awesome Army, Lis asked members to show their support by renewing their PayPal subscriptions.

“Without your gifts, it becomes very difficult to take care of Tim and provide him with the quality of life that he deserves,” Lis wrote. “While we dream of a day when [Often Awesome] will be a non-profit and we can organize funding in a more professional way, right now, we rely completely on those subscriptions to take care of Tim.”

Much to the delight of the OA Army, Tim made it to the film festival on Sunday night. As the festival opened, he appeared onscreen and welcomed the audience with the help of a computer that uses Tobii technology.

“Hey, my name is Tim and I am living with ALS,” a computer voice said.

Tim’s ability to speak has been greatly compromised by his use of ventilator, so the Tobii computer makes communication possible.

In a recent blog post, Tim praised Tobii for donating a computer that would free him from the “shackles of ALS.”

“This new, compact, portable computer that will allow me to communicate and more everywhere I go,” Tim wrote. “They are a company who is constantly searching for new ways to support people like me.”

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Support for Tim and his battle with ALS has come in many forms. During the film festival, audience members laughed and cried as Tim appeared in the “Often Awesome” retrospective as well as two of the short films. In a black-and-white short, a much younger Tim vamped for the camera as Annie Lennox’s “No More ‘I Love You’s'” played. The laughter that poured forth was touching and genuine. As the song faded out, the words, “Damn, I’m hot,” popped up and the audience roared its approval one more time.

During the credit sequence for the short film, “Hatchuma: Silent but deadly,” Tim, a film editor, demonstrated how to make a fart sound by pressing his bare back against wet concrete. This hilarious sequence brought forth more peals of laughter. During the “Often Awesome” retrospective, the audience watched the transformation of Tim from a seemingly healthy 30-year-old man to someone who needs 24-hour care, a ventilator and a computer equipped with assistive technology to help him communicate.

“Often Awesome “” Episode 26″ captured moments of stark reality, like when Tim said: “No matter how hard we fight, we know this is going to end.”

But mostly, the 15-minute short included hopeful moments, such as Tim’s declaration: “I don’t feel broken and that’s because of the Often Awesome Army”¦. Do I think I’ll make it another year? F**k yes, I do. I’ve got a lot to accomplish and I’m not dying before it’s all done. No way am I going anywhere.”

As the episode drew to a close, Kaylan defiantly proclaimed, “We’re gonna cure this disease. We’re gonna help the world. We’re gonna help so many people and we’re gonna continue to do this together because we love the shit out of one another.”

“If you just look back on this year, we’ve accomplished so much,” she continued. “We’re going to win this; we will.”

As Tim’s longtime friend, Sn’zz, sang the Often Awesome theme song, “Die Trying,” the emotion inside the theater was palpable. Then love in the form of applause rained down in honor of a courageous couple and their undying love for each other.

To join the Often Awesome Army, visit: www.oftenawesome.org.

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