“Strength, guidance, faith, belief, love, you name it.”
For Tonia Mason, a special education paraprofessional at Whitman Post Elementary in Rockton, those words only scratch the surface of the impact Kris Grahnke made. Grahnke at the young age of 30 passed Tuesday morning after fighting ALS for nearly three years. The disease causes the body to lose function of nerves and muscles.
“The kids loved him,” Mason said. “I don’t know any other words to say but they respected him and loved him and were so happy to see him,” she added.
Grahnke taught special education at Whitman Post for two years despite the hardships that came with ALS. Many people who worked with him say the disease never slowed him down.
“There was one little boy in particular named Tommy who made a connection with Kris,” said Whitman Post fourth grade teacher Anita Stiffler. “The last year he was here Kris would let him get on the back of his wheelchair and ride down the hallway,” she added.
Grahnke largely was known for being a strong advocate to raise awareness towards the incurable disease. He raised thousands of dollars for research and spoke on capitol hill.
“There are people that put on their armor and they become generals and there are people who say this is too much,” said the ALS Association Chicago Chapter Director of Development Maryilene Blondell. “Kris was a general and he was going to let you hear about it,” she added.
While those who knew Grahnke are sad that he’s gone, they say his legacy will last forever.
“Somebody who had very little use for his body, he didn’t just talk the talk, but he did walk the walk,” said Whitman Post Principal Megan Forsythe. “I wish that more people in this world had his perspective in life, the world would be a happier place,” she added.
Grahnke was an avid Bears fan. The ALS Association was trying to schedule a meet and greet with some of the Bears’ players. Blondell says the ALS Association plans on finding a special way to commemorate Grahnke.