Friend with ALS inspires woman to walk 500 miles

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WAVE) - Many of us have been forced to change some plans over the course of the last few months, and Patsy Harkess is no different.

She had big plans for 2020. After turning 80, she was going to walk the 500 mile Camino de Santiago in Spain, but COVID-19 altered the course of her journey.

“So at the beginning of May I thought I’d just try and start walking and then two days I walked and I thought I could maybe do this for a cause,” Harkess said.

A cause like raising awareness and money for ALS. Patsy’s good friend, Mary Jane Eigel, was diagnosed with the disease in April.

“That was the cause and so that’s how we started it,” she recalled.

Walking an average of 12 miles a day for 40 days, the journey was set to end at the Anchorage Trail on Tuesday afternoon.

Family and friends, and Mary Jane, gathered, with signs in hand.

As Patsy made those last few last few steps, she was surprised by the raucous crowd there to greet her.

“I had no idea anybody was doing this, it’s absolutely fantastic and honestly I know that I’m sure, just about everybody here has been donating to this cause, to this lovely family,” she said.

“She’s always been an inspiring woman to begin with, to already have wanting to walk the 500 miles in Spain was pretty awesome, so it was really great that she got the opportunity to still walk her 500 miles but to do it for a cause and to do it in honor of one of her very best friends,” said Harkess’ daugher, Stephanie Robertson.

Tradition dictates that after the pilgrimage, walkers leave a rock, Harkess had already chosen her rock, ironically , from place setting at the wedding of Jaime, one of Mary Jane Eigel's daughters.

“I’m gonna sterilize it before I give it to Mary Jane,” Harkess exclaimed.

She’s turned her Coronavirus cancellation into over $15,000 for ALS research.

You can join the fight by donating at

Copyright 2020 WAVE 3 News. All rights reserved.