SCOTTSBORO, Ala. (WHNT) – 15-year-old Branson Bearden is undergoing the difficult process of an ALS diagnosis. On Saturday, family and friends rallied behind him at the Walk to Defeat ALS in Scottsboro.

“We have recently gotten the possible diagnosis of ALS, so we are still searching for answers and holding onto hope,” said Branson’s mother Jessica Bearden.

ALS, or amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, is a neurodegenerative disease that impacts nerve cells in the brain and spine. Those with an ALS diagnosis lose muscle control, impacting their ability to speak, move, and breathe.

Branson’s family said they first noticed something was wrong this spring.

“We got in at the end of the summer to see a neurologist, and we immediately knew we were looking at something rare and something serious by the way everyone was reacting at the doctor’s offices,” Jessica Bearden said.

An ALS diagnosis is rare in someone as young as Branson. The average age of diagnosis falls between 55 and 75, according to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stoke (NIH).

Branson has spent his teen years playing sports. He no longer competes on the football field, but he still regularly runs cross country. His next race is Thursday in Scottsboro.

His family said Branson’s diagnosis process is far from over. His family is searching for alternative treatments and working on getting him into Mayo Clinic.

“This is not something we ever dreamed would happen, but we appreciate all the prayers,” Jessica Bearden said.

ALS impacts thousands of Americans. There is not currently a cure, but many are raising money contributing to the search for one. Dozens gathered for Saturday’s walk in Scottsboro. Some walked to remember loved ones lost to ALS, and other came to support those, like Branson, who recently received a diagnosis.

If you are interested in donating to Alabama’s ALS Association, click here.

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