Mark Cassidy

BETHALTO - According to Mark Cassidy, life demands to be lived no matter what.

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The Bethalto resident, who was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) a few years ago, recently took a paramotor flight out of St. Louis Regional Airport. Now, he’s encouraging everyone to live their lives to the fullest.

“ALS is a very unkind diagnosis. You lose the ability to do everything, including breathing, before it’s all over,” Cassidy said. “But while I’m alive now, I want to do stuff that people are willing to help me do.”

Cassidy was inspired to take a paramotor flight after he watched “The Upside,” a movie about a man with quadriplegia and his caregiver. The movie features a scene where the main character paraglides, and Cassidy decided he would like to do that, too.

Armed with his bucket list and “number one caregiver” Amy King, Cassidy and King worked with Lone Star Paramotor in San Antonio, Texas, to make his dream a reality. They organized the flight out of St. Louis Regional Airport in Bethalto, and soon, Cassidy was soaring over the Metro East.

“It was very peaceful. Hell, I could’ve taken a nap up there,” he laughed.

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While he admitted there was an “adrenaline rush,” he said it was enthusiasm, not fear, that made his heart pound. Cassidy has always enjoyed flying, and he looks for opportunities to do it often.

The paramotor flight was the latest in a long line of great experiences. In the past few years, Cassidy has also taken a gondola ride in Grafton and a hot air balloon ride over the Riverbend. He said it “takes some wrangling” to organize these adventures, but he and his team of caregivers make it happen every time.

This is partly why Cassidy was so eager to take the paramotor flight; he wants people to realize that life doesn’t have to stop after a diagnosis like ALS. While there are challenges, there are also a lot of possibilities.

“If you woke up this morning, there’s still light. You don’t have to quit living because of this diagnosis,” he explained. “It makes things rough, I’ll certainly give them that…But if one person is inspired to get up off their butt and do something, then it’s worth it.”

Cassidy encouraged people to look for opportunities to do what they enjoy. He certainly recommends paramotoring to anyone who is interested.

But more than that, he suggested living life to the fullest every day. Cassidy knows that life is short and you can never predict what curveballs are coming. But there’s a lot of living to do in the meantime.

“Go out and live,” Cassidy said. “Especially people that have these physical impairments similar to mine, it’s real easy to feel sorry for yourself and sit around and mope, but I haven’t done that since I’ve been diagnosed. You just look for things that you can do, and there's a lot of things. People may not realize it, but hey, you know, life goes on. I would encourage people to get out and enjoy it.”

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