By: Terry Foster
@terryfoster971

This is a story of red toes and courage. But first we must begin on a North Carolina golf course.

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Don Muirhead could not find his golf ball. He hit his eight iron a little flat during his approach shot on the 507-yard, 14th hole at the Asheville Golf Club in Asheville North Carolina.

He thought his shot sailed the green and his search began in the rough behind the 14th hole. No ball.

He looked by some traps and high grass. No ball.

“Hey Don,” someone called out. “I found your ball. It’s in the hole.”

“You are kidding me,” Muirhead said.

The year was 1984, the year the Tigers were cooking up their first World Series title since 1968. Muirhead enjoyed his own personal championship. He crushed a tee shot 380 yards that kept bouncing until it reached the right side of the fairway. His 130-yard approach shot went into the hole for a rare double eagle.

“Not many people can say they did that,” Muirhead said with a big smile on his face.

Muirhead loves golf. He played in his former home in North Carolina and with buddies at The Detroit Country Club, Bay Pointe, Birmingham Country Club and at Salem. His crushing drives and consistent short game earned him a few trophies, 4 handicap and bragging rights.

The game also helped him make a sad discovery. Don, 64, is dying of ALS or more commonly known as Lou Gehrig’s disease. I don’t know how much time he’s got. I do not ask because he is my neighbor and I do not want to know. I’ve wanted to tell his story since last summer when he talked openly about ALS and dying during an annual picnic that we have with four of our neighbors.

“My doctor says I look great for a dying guy,” Don told us.

He is still walking and talking, although he spends most of his days in the family room hooked up to an oxygen tank overlooking the frost and snow that has built up in his backyard.

“This is probably where I am going to die,” he said softly.

It even feels good to cry because doctors told him he will lose control of his emotions when the end is near.

Muirhead is a free spirit that this world needs. He jokes about this disease, which quite frankly made some of us uncomfortable at first. But the more we understood the more we could laugh through the sadness.

Hospice care visits twice a week and the ladies who care for him make Don their final visit Friday afternoons to ensure they enjoy a pleasant weekend.
“If you can’t laugh about it, what can you do,” he said.

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RED TOES AND COURAGE

This is a story of red toes and courage.

Muirhead paints his toe nails red, the official colors of the ALS Association, with the slogan of F# ALS. His family members made up T-shirts that they wear in public that basically say the same. It is that defiant attitude that Muirhead and his family carry with them.

I will spend much of this week telling his story. Do you remember the bucket challenge for ALS? It raised millions of dollars for research. Don wants to start a new fundraiser.
Maybe we can call it the Red Toes and Courage Challenge.

I want America to paint its toenails red, post on social media and raise money for the ALS Association in the name of Don. If you create an event, whether it is in a school, church, restaurant or nail salon I will do my part and get my nails painted red.

“You have two choices,” Muirhead said. “You can be crabby and hateful and ask how did I get this? Or you just accept it and make the most of it. You waste too much energy when you are crabby. Why not have a good time with it? I mean as much as you can.”

Muirhead discovered the disease about two years ago during a meeting with his wife Shelby and his doctor. After the shock they both talked over a glass of wine and began enjoying their final days together the best they can.

During a recent trip to Naples, Fla. a woman admired his red toe nails on the beach.

“You have pretty feet,” she said. “I can’t help but notice the red toe nails.”

“I am wearing the red toe nail polished because someone I know has ALS,” he told the woman.

“Well who is it,” she asked.

“It’s me,” Don said.

‘Oh no,” she replied. “I will pray for you.”

Our prayers won’t save Don. However, our donations might find a cure.

On Wednesday we explore how Don discovered ALS.

(To donate to ALS Association go to ALS.org.)

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Foster can be reached at Terry.Foster@cbsradio.com.