Approximately 6,000 people in the United States are diagnosed with ALS each year, according to The ALS Association. In May 2016, Wilton resident Margot Vaughan was one of those people. ALS\u00a0\u2014 also known as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis or Lou Gehrig\u2019s disease \u2014 is a progressive, fatal neuromuscular disease that slowly robs the body of its ability to walk, speak, swallow and breathe. Vaughan\u2019s 25-year-old daughter, Kirsten, said ALS has had a \u201csignificant\u201d impact on her mother\u2019s life. \u201cALS weakens your muscles and deteriorates them,\u201d she said. \u201cShe can still walk, but it\u2019s very, very slowly. Talking is getting very difficult and eating solid foods is really difficult.\u201d Kirsten said her mother is still working for Mastercard \u2014\u00a0a company she\u2019s been with for more than 20 years. \u201cShe is very well respected there,\u201d said Kirsten. \u201cShe works mostly from home now, but it\u2019s definitely been harder for her to maintain that with her loss of communication.\u201d Friends Although the disease \u201chas not been a good process,\u201d Kirsten said, her mother\u2019s friends have been \u201camazing.\u201d \u201cThey\u2019ve been helpful in finding solutions for some of the problems that we\u2019ve encountered and supporting my family,\u201d she said. For example, Kirsten said, some of her mother\u2019s friends have been \u201ccoming up with different ways to make food\u201d that\u2019s easier for her mother to eat. \u201cOne even bought a device that pur\u00e9es different foods,\u201d she said. Kirsten said her mother is \u201chome a lot more now,\u201d but her friends make sure to visit her. \u201cThere\u2019s a core group of women who all live in the area, and we sort of take turns in terms of making sure somebody\u2019s there for her\u00a0\u2014 whether she needs a meal or someone to sit with her,\u201d said Wilton resident Kathy Bieger, who met Vaughan while vacationing in Turks and Caicos 20 years ago. \u201cWe both lived in Wilton and had five-year-old daughters in the same school at the time, but we had no idea each other existed,\u201d Bieger said with a laugh. \u201cI joined an exercise class one morning on the beach and she was right next to me. We struck up a conversation and that\u2019s when we figured out we both lived around the corner from each other and both had daughters in the same school.\u201d Since Vaughan\u2019s diagnosis, Bieger said, she spends \u201ca lot of time\u201d with her and tries to visit a couple times a week \u2014\u00a0\u201despecially now that her abilities are really failing.\u201d Vaughan spent most of the summer at her house in Martha\u2019s Vineyard, said Bieger, and her \u201ccore group\u201d of friends took turns going up there to visit. They also celebrated her 30th wedding anniversary there this summer. Bieger said Vaughan\u2019s ALS progression has been \u201cvery slow.\u201d About a year before her ALS diagnosis, Vaughan was told she had multifocal motor neuropathy \u2014 a rare yet treatable condition that is often mistaken for ALS. \u201cWe thought it was something else very minor with her hands for a year, but then when things didn\u2019t get better, that\u2019s when we really understood,\u201d said Bieger, \u201cand that\u2019s when she got the official diagnosis.\u201d Since then, Bieger said, \u201csomebody\u2019s been with her all the time.\u201d \u201cWe try to get her out as much as possible,\u201d she said. \u201cNow it\u2019s getting a little bit more difficult because she\u2019s no longer mobile, but we try to get her out for dinners and whatever we can do.\u201d Seven months after Vaughan received her ALS diagnosis,\u00a0Bieger drove to The ALS Association Connecticut Chapter office in Milford to learn more about the disease and ways in which she can help her longtime friend. \u201cI knew what ALS was, but I didn\u2019t know how to manage it or what how quickly it would deteriorate, so I went to the ALS office,\u201d said Bieger. \u201cI wanted to get her any services that she might need \u2014 not only then, but in the future \u2014\u00a0and we found this amazing woman, Stacey, who was able to direct Margot to many of the services that are available for ALS patients.\u201d Fairfield resident Judy Wolf met Vaughan in 1985 while waiting for a charter flight from New York City to Turks and Caicos. The two sparked a friendship and Wolf wound up being one of Vaughan\u2019s bridesmaids at her wedding two years later. \u201cI was with Margot when she got the diagnosis,\u201d said Wolf. \u201cShe made an appointment with a special doctor known for his diagnostic abilities in determining ALS.\u201d Wolf said it was \u201cdevastating news, as it was exactly what she feared she would hear.\u201d However, she said, \u201cDr. Richard Lewis assured her it was slow-moving and was as hopeful and upbeat as he could be.\u201d The doctor also gave Vaughan the name of \u201ca very smart and highly-regarded doctor at Mass General,\u201d said Wolf, \u201cwho was incredible at getting Margot access to medicines and treatments not readily available in the United States with promising outcomes.\u201d After the appointment, Wolf said, the two met a small group of friends for a pre-planned girls\u2019 weekend at the Monarch Hotel in Dana Point, Calif. \u201cMargot shared with everyone the sad news,\u201d said Wolf, \u201cand immediately, everyone was supportive.\u201d Wolf said Vaughan has been \u201ca wonderful, warm, generous and fun friend\u201d to her for more than 30 years, and she will do \u201canything and everything\u201d she can \u201cto help her keep up her fighting spirit.\u201d Wilton resident Connie Fitzgerald met Vaughan 33 years ago while working for American Express and said she\u2019s told her she\u2019s available \u201cfor whatever she needs,\u201d but Vaughan \u201crarely asks for help.\u201d \u201cI\u2019ve just been a friend \u2014 able to run an occasional errand or wait for a workman when she can't be there,\u201d said Fitzgerald. \u201cMy husband and I, and my dogs, have been delighted to be able to spend time and share meals with Margot and her family.\u201d Fitzgerald and Bieger both said Vaughan has dealt with her diagnosis with \u201cgrace\u201d and \u201ccourage.\u201d \u201cShe is an inspiration to me and everyone I know,\u201d said Fitzgerald. \u201cIt is a pleasure to spend time with her and I would do anything to help her defeat this insidious disease.\u201d Redding resident Ilene Tanen has known Vaughan for more than 30 years and said she is an \u201cincredible\u201d and \u201cexceptionally smart\u201d person, as well as a \u201csuccessful businesswoman\u201d and \u201ccaring friend and loving mother.\u201d \u201cBeing Margot, she has not taken this disease lying down,\u201d said Tanen, who is helping make T-shirts for the upcoming Walk to Defeat ALS. \u201cShe has literally gone around the world exploring treatments and gathering information that could help her condition and advance a cure for ALS. She is a fighter and very determined.\u201d Walk to Defeat ALS After visiting the ALS office, Bieger decided to form the Miles for Margot team for the this year\u2019s Walk to Defeat ALS in Westport on Saturday, Oct. 14. \u201cRight now, we have about 40 people,\u201d Bieger told The Bulletin on Tuesday, \u201cand I expect it to really grow to at least 100 thanks to [Vaughan\u2019s] daughter, Caroline, who also works at Mastercard.\u201d \u201cShe\u2019s taken this walk to heart and she\u2019s been getting a lot of her Mastercard people involved,\u201d said Bieger. The three-mile walk, sponsored by The ALS Association\u2019s Connecticut Chapter, will begin at Sherwood Island State Park at 11 a.m. \u2014 an hour after check-in. Money raised will help support those living with ALS, as well as advance global research and public policy initiatives aimed at finding treatments and a cure for the disease. As of Wednesday, Oct. 4, Miles for Margot had surpassed its $10,000 goal by $12,615. Bieger said she hopes Miles for Margot will \u201chelp Margot find courage\u201d to continue fighting hard. Vaughan left for a stem-cell transplant in Korea last month weekend, and Bieger said she wants her to know that \u201call of us\u00a0\u2014 all of the walkers\u00a0\u2014 are behind her and fighting just as hard.\u201d Click here to learn more about the Walk to Defeat ALS or donate. Bieger said anyone who wants to help may contact her at email@example.com.