James is only 40 years old, and once he leaves his job due to his medical condition, he may not have insurance to cover the burdensome medical costs associated with ALS. Jim and Retta go down every weekend to help him out but they have their own medical issues.

On the west side of the Lake of the Ozarks, a community has come together to help a veteran’s family and a first responder. 

Jim and Retta Morton moved here years ago after Jim retired from the military and Retta from the private sector. Jim retired after 22 years in the U.S. Marine Corps, and three years in the Naval Reserves. 

He spent one year in Okinawa and one year overseas in Vietnam. Not long after they moved to the Lake area, Jim joined the fire department in Gravois Mills at Station House 3 in the Wilson Bend area and worked there for 10 years as a first responder, retiring at the rank of lieutenant. He is also a member of the Knights of Columbus at St. Pat’s Church in Laurie, is a 33 degree Mason and a very active member of the American Legion Zack Wheat Post 624. 

Jim and Retta have held offices both at the unit level and the district level over the years. 

So when the Westside community found out about their son, James, and the family’s situation they created the ‘Friends of the Morton Family’ to help them out.  

James followed in his dad’s foot steps and became a first responder in Kansas City. He has been a fireman there about 12 to 14 years as well as holding odd jobs to help make ends meet. He has a 12-year-old daughter who is the apple of his eye.

In August 2016, James had an accident while on duty and hurt his back. After a few months he wasn’t getting any better so more tests were ordered. For the next four months he was tested for various disorders, among them, Parkinson’s disease, MS and ALS.

In January 2017 it was determined that James has ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease. This six-month delay allowed this disease to progress faster than it should have and James is in now on medical leave. He is having problems using his left arm and leg, which makes mobility even more difficult.

As of right now the fire department is keeping him on the active rolls, but on medical leave. His doctors have estimated that his medications could cost as high as $135,000 a month. As for his insurance, it is not clear if he will be able to keep it once he leaves the fire department.

When severe storms hit Missouri in May, a tree fell at his home causing damage to his house and destroying his truck. His insurance won’t cover the vehicle so he is out of transportation; as for the house, not all damages were covered. Men from his fire house came out to help with the tree removal and some minor repairs. 

But to make matters worse he fell a couple of weeks ago and broke three ribs. His house will need to be wheelchair accessible, and he needs a vehicle that can be equipped to accept a wheelchair. 

James is only 40 years old, and once he leaves his job due to his medical condition, he may not have insurance to cover the burdensome medical costs associated with ALS. Jim and Retta go down every weekend to help him out but they have their own medical issues.

The ‘Friends of the Morton Family’ are sponsoring a Fish Fry Fundraiser on Friday, Aug. 18, from 5-7 p.m., and are covering all of the expenses for the event. The American Legion Post 624 at 852 American Legion Rd., Sunrise Beach, graciously offered its facility to hold the fish fry. There will be a raffle for an Apple iPad, generation 6, 32 GB, with WIFI and cellular capabilities. 

All proceeds from this fundraiser will go to the Morton family. The funds collected will help the Morton’s re-fit the house and a van to accept a wheelchair and to help with the expense of James’ medications. ‘Friends of the Morton Family’ are asking the Lake community to help with their support by joining them at the fish fry fundraiser. Please go to zackwheatlegionpost624.org under the ‘July Newsletter,’ for further information.

ALS is a debilitating disease. It leaves the family feeling useless and in a financial bind. ALS is a neurodegenerative disease where the nerve cells in the spinal cord and brain stem die, which leads to progressive muscle weakness and death. 

The study of the brain has been difficult and hard to understand, that is why ALS research is where cancer was decades ago. New treatments are being researched and tried, but you won’t find them online. You only hear of them by word of mouth.

It’s at times like this when the community and friends come together to help a family in need.