What happens when some Texas boys witness, first hand, the brutal reality of living with ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig's disease? Read below to find out.
Craig Reagan's Mach 1 Story
Reflecting on one's high school experiences brings up many memories, some good, some, maybe not so much. We attended New Caney High School in New Caney, Texas. Although many of us did not realize it at the time, we have all been blessed to have attended this school together. Gangs were unheard of (to us), and gatherings centered primarily around pep rallies, sports games, weekend parties, bible studies, and... CARS (trucks included). We were in the era where we were at the DPS office to get our license as soon as the calendar allowed. Everyone eagerly anticipated the day they could legally drive, though many of us were driving well before then. Getting to drive to school was a whole new level of freedom. Getting to drive to school in a "ride" you could call your own was a statement!
When Craig realized the Mustang Mach 1's were now "old enough" to be in his price range, he began picking up any Auto Trader he could find and looked through every page, probably multiple times. His best friend's brother had a big nose Mach 1 (71-73) and it was beautiful, red, ram-air hood, black racing stripe, and THE must-have Cragar S/S wheels. Craig soon located a '73 Mach 1 in Baytown, Texas and made arrangements to go check it out. It had the anemic 302 with 3 speed manual, but it looked great, was in good shape AND in his price range. That Mach 1 would now make its home in New Caney. This was probably December '83 and we were Juniors.
The fate of the 302/3 spd was soon sealed, probably with a little urging from Bryan Quinn. In its place would be the awesome 351 Cleveland with 4 barrel heads with ports so big you could fit your fist in them! As you can imagine, that led to a lot more horsepower and a lot more fun. The car had a reputation for street racing and a whole lot of fun! Many people have memories or stories about that car. The Mach 1 took Craig through graduation and beyond. He vowed to never get rid of it and to one day do a thorough restoration. Over time some upgrades were done and parts were bought for future use. As what happens all too often in these situations, life gets in the way.
Fast forward 37 years from graduation and here we are. Craig now has a wife, 3 beautiful adopted kids, a house, a degree from Texas A&M, and all the adult responsibilities. He also has something no one would ever want... ALS. He was diagnosed with this horrible disease on July 29, 2016 with me, our friend Kathy Hale, his wife Nancy Reagan, and father-in-law Clayton Smith, by his side. NOTHING can prepare someone for a diagnosis of ALS. He had to shudder two profitable businesses due to ALS. Businesses he and his wife built from the ground up. After years of building custom homes for others, he is now medically retired and requires round the clock care. He is unable to feed himself, groom himself or otherwise care for himself. He's 55 years old. His speech is very slurred and he communicates online by typing with his eyes on an eye gaze device.
Since his ALS diagnosis, Craig has become a leading advocate for ALS patients to gain access to promising drug therapies. He and his friend Mike Henson, who also has ALS, founded the Facebook group No More Excuses! ALS WatchDog Group which has grown to almost 14,000 members. This group and its admins were instrumental in getting the Accelerating Access to Critical Therapies for ALS bill through Congress and onto the President's desk. This bill provides $500M, over the next five years, targeted specifically for research and treatment of neurodegenerative diseases. This bill was signed into law on December 23, 2021. Craig has been to Washington, DC multiple times to fight for ALS patients' rights, from the halls of Congress, to the White House for a body bag protest, to a protest at FDA headquarters, to the offices of ALSA. Three visits were with top FDA employees where he pleaded for the agency to get promising therapies to ALS patients more quickly. Craig continues to fight for ALS patients today.
Recently, he attended his 37 year class reunion. We all had a chance to visit with some of the good folks from our high school years. Several of the guys have their big boy toys and a few brought theirs to display. We got to enjoy Brett McMath's '69 Mach 1, Mike Silva's '34 Ford, and Richard Watson's '69 Camaro which should be called "Against All Odds" since mid-restoration it got covered in floodwater in one of Houston's big floods. Richard and his friend Robert Easterling have a man cave called Rusty Nuts Garage that would be the envy of any gearhead. Here, they hang out, work on classic cars, and bring automotive dreams to life, as a hobby. The Camaro was in the man cave when SJRA opened the floodgates from Lake Conroe and Rusty Nuts Garage was soon inundated with more than 5 feet of murky floodwater. Richard and Robert were determined to recover, and they certainly did. That Camaro turned out so awesome that even Blue Oval guys would be happy to have it around. LOL
During conversation with some of the guys, he mentioned that he still has his '73 Mach 1 from high school but it was not running and he hoped to one day do with his, what they had done with theirs. Well, they were listening more than he knew. Richard got together with Brett, Mike, Curtis Smith, and John Davis. A plan was formulated and Robert was kind enough to agree. The following week, this happened; a Facebook post from Richard Watson:
As most of my friends know last weekend some friends from high school threw a sort of impromptu reunion for yes 37yrs, during the party I discovered that Craig Reagan still has his high school ride, a 1973 Mustang Mach 1. Well Craig has ALS (Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis), it's the most debilitating and frustrating thing I've ever seen. Imagine your brain is 100% but you can't move any part of your body. Anyway over the years he has accumulated a lot of parts etc. to restore his car until he was diagnosed. Well a few alumni and I have decided Craig needs to go for a ride so Rusty Nuts Garage is up for it. We're going to pick the car this Friday (7/22) and bring it to the shop. We are going to try and do a gofundme to pay for parts, of course no labor and anything over cost goes to Craig and family. If anyone wants to be involved monetarily, turning wrenches, to see the car or just want to make sure this is legit, message me and I'll tell you where we are located. It's basically halfway between Dayton and Huffman off FM 1960. I'll set up a project album on Rusty Nuts Garage Projects page, so everyone can see the progress, if you're not a member just message me and I will invite you..... Thank you.
Wow! I think everyone that has read that post had sweaty eyes before they finished reading. If you have read this far, you likely know one of the names in the story, or maybe you like car stories, or you may have had a personal experience with ALS. If you feel inclined to donate to this project, and I hope you do, it will certainly be appreciated. All funds will go towards parts needed to restore Craig's Mach 1. Thanks to generous, capable friends and Rusty Nuts Garage, all labor will be at NO CHARGE. Thank you in advance for any contribution you may make, and thank you, God, for people like our fellow classmates!
Rusty Nuts Garage
Dayton, Texas 77535
I really like the rear louvers on these cars. They really make these muscle cars stand out.
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