Friday, September 18, 2009

‘Ride for Zac Gilstrap’

Funds sought to aid multiple sclerosis victim

Express Staff Writer

Zac Gilstrap was diagnosed with a rare and fatal form of multiple sclerosis that has left him a quadriplegic and unable to speak. Photo by

Late this spring, 26-year-old Zac Gilstrap was taken to an emergency room and diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. Unfortunately, Gilstrap's condition is not a familiar and treatable form of MS but a rare and fatal one. Gilstrap has Marburg variant MS, which has caused him body paralysis, blindness and cognition problems. Few survive the debilitating disease.

Gilstrap is a graduate of Wood River High School, class of 2001. He played in the bands the Pirkolators and Kingpin Superstar. Though he has no verbal communication and limited vision, and has suffered severe brain damage and massive spinal lesions, he kisses his mother on the cheek, smiles and eats.

Gilstrap's 12-year-old brother, Nash, spent much of the summer in hospitals with his mother, Kim Coonis, and decided he wanted to do more. Nash pulled together a fundraising bike event called "I Ride for Zac Gilstrap." The ride will take place Saturday, Sept. 19, at 9 a.m. beginning at Albertsons, and go to Ketchum and back. Pledges are being gathered for miles, which will assist the family in paying for the mounting medical expenses to treat Zac's condition.

"For a 12-year-old it is an undertaking," Coonis said. "It would not have happened without the help of [Wood River Middle School social worker] Tod Gunter."

Nash has raised $1,500 by himself and friends have raised $500. Coonis said the event will include several riders from Boise and 75-100 people coming to donate. In addition, the day will include live music before and after the ride.

Coonis said Zac's insurance coverage will terminate in 25 days. He needs 24-hour care and might need it for the rest of his life because he is a quadriplegic with no communication skills. Nash wanted to do something special to help his brother because he felt helpless.

"It is hard to say how Zac feels," Coonis said. "We don't know. I know he is smiling and he understands. It will be a long haul."

Zac worked for Albertsons in Boise and Hailey. Albertsons will supply treats and drinks for all riders. The ride is 12.5 miles one way or 25 miles roundtrip on the bike path from Hailey to Ketchum. One-way riders will be provided a ride back to the start provided by Mountain Rides. Registration is at 8:30 a.m. at the northwest corner of Albertsons' parking lot. A minimum of $20 in donations or pledges will be accepted. For those unable to attend, checks can be made out to Bald Mt. Rescue, Zac Gilstrap, and mailed to Kim Coonis, Box 555, Hailey, ID 83333.

"This has been such a wild ride," Coonis said. "It's amazing how the community pulls together to help us. It's pretty heart warming."

Sabina Dana Plasse:

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