“I Can”, the life motto of Trace Craft, a loving husband, father, and dedicated educator and school administrator. Trace lost his battle with ALS in September of 2020, but today his legacy powers the crusade to end ALS.
“Trace was my best friend, beloved husband, confidant, inspiration, supporter, teacher, and coparent….He was the most amazing man I had ever met…Not a day goes by that I don’t think of him. I miss him dearly!” his wife Jennifer shared in an interview.
Jennifer and Trace met in 1992 and were engaged within a year of meeting each other. Five years later, they married and were for 23 wonderful years. They have two boys, Jaycob and Trevor who are now 14 and 18 respectively. “We were a very close and active family,” Jennifer shared. “Trace, the boys and I loved spending time together outdoors…We also cooked many meals together.” The Craft family’s love for each other spilled over into their involvement with the local community.
Their family moved to Weatherford in 2013 when Trace accepted a job as an Assistant Principle at Tison Middle School. He was very intentional about building relationships in this role with both his colleagues and with students. Trace started a club for young men in summer of 2017. The Boys to Men club was created to teach young boys how to be responsible and respectable men.
This group grew tremendously with more students and community mentors getting involved each year. Later, he helped found a Girls of Greatness club for young women. As Trace continued to impact his community in Weatherford ISD, he was promoted to Assistant Principal at Weatherford High School.
Their family also involved in the Weatherford community through church at Northside Baptist. Jennifer, who has a career as a pharmacist, noted that she herself viewed her coworkers as extended family. “That’s why we ended up having so much support I think once he was diagnosed was just because all of the connections, we were able to make.”
The Long Road to Diagnosis
Jennifer recalls the long process of coming to Trace’s diagnosis of ALS. She first noticed slurring of his speech in February of 2018. Through a series of doctors’ visits, Trace was misdiagnosed with stress and even discovered a small pituitary tumor in his brain. But none of those explained his declining condition, as he had also started to have problems swallowing certain foods.
After further testing, Trace was officially diagnosed with ALS on August 28, 2018. Jennifer shared how they held hands together in the car on the way home, wondering how to break the news to their two sons. “We told them that evening…It was hard. We all cried and hugged…Our ‘world’ changed. We now had to look at life from a different perspective.”
I Can – My ALS Blog
Trace blogged to document his progression and share his thoughts. In his first post, he shared his newfound purpose on the ALS journey.
“This disease will not define who I am or how I will live my life…My motto is ‘I Can.’ I can be positive. I can persevere in the face of hardship. I can be the best person I can be. I can be the man my God wants me to be. I can be determined. I can make a difference!”
At the end of that blog, Trace invited everyone to join his Walk to Defeat ALS team: Craft’s Crusaders. Jennifer noted how Trace’s favorite Bible verse inspired the team name. “The verse mentions being an ambassador in chains…Crusaders want big change now. They give a voice to the unheard while lobbying for a movement with unbridled passion.”
The Crusade to End ALS
Trace was eager to lead the charge against ALS. “He felt like it was a crusade to not only educate people about what ALS was—but also to try to get everyone on board to try and help find a cure for ALS or to find better treatment for ALS,” Jennifer shared.
The Weatherford community joined Trace on his new crusade. One of those people was Marvin Lofton, who first met Trace back in 2017 when they both worked at Tison Middle School. “His character speaks volumes, his integrity, his respect level for others, and the way that he showed how he cared about others was just something that he modelled and I idolized.” Marvin shared.
Marvin was familiar with ALS because his uncles wife had passed away from the disease the year prior. He joined the walk to honor them both. Marvin noted he was amazed at how resilient Trace was during the Walk. “I can remember the first time we went on the walk…I’m like there’s no way this dude can be walking with this cane in the hot weather…this is a superhero, a real-life superhero.”
Trace recalled this experience on his blog the next day, “It was a very long three miles! I was not sure I was going to make it, but I pushed through to the end! I finished!…I told myself I was going to finish the entire three miles.” Their team raised over $10,000 to support the ALS Texas mission.
Jennifer described their first walk as both amazing and heartbreaking. “We saw people who walked in memory of loved ones lost, others further in the journey than us and the newly diagnosed like us. It was encouraging to see so many people rally for the same cause with no barriers and motivated by love.”
A Supportive Community
The community not only rallied behind the Craft family at the Walk, but also with their day-to-day life. The congregation at Northside Baptist quickly became helpers on their ALS journey. Gentlemen from the men’s ministry would visit the house to help lift Trace and move him throughout the home. Others would visit to mow the lawn, clean their house, prepare meals, and support them through prayer.
“We could focus on him and not focus on the minutia and monotony of the little things in life than can take you away from spending time with your loved ones. It was really encouraging,” Jennifer shared.
They not only had the support of their Weatherford community, but also the support of the ALS Texas community. Their family benefited from the virtual support groups and multidisciplinary clinics. Jennifer mentioned how it was so convenient to come to one location for a full team of doctors. “I don’t think we would’ve ever have gotten as far as we did without that kind of multidisciplinary team…And I know part of that is because of the funds and the support that the ALS Association provides to keep those types of clinics going.”
Keeping Trace’s Legacy Alive
Trace lost his battle to ALS in September of 2020. Just seven weeks later, the Craft family participated in the virtual Walk to Defeat ALS. Jennifer noted, “2020 was hard just 7 weeks after Trace’s death, but it also helped me feel connected while I felt so alone.”
It is now nearing the one year since Trace has passed, and his legacy continues to impact the Weatherford community. After his diagnosis, Tison Middle School decided to honor Trace by renaming the Boys to Men club he founded to The Craftsman Club. “His impact on the community in Weatherford is going to be unforgettable and is going to be a legacy that going to live on forever,” Marvin shared.
Trace inspired Marvin to be an ongoing learner and pursue a doctorate degree. Today, he not only honors Trace through that process but also as the team captain of Craft’s Crusaders. “To keep that spirit and legacy alive is the reason why I want to be a part of it, not only in memory of trace but in memory of my aunt, Maddie Connor,” he shared.
We Can Make a Difference
Today, Jennifer and her two sons lean on Trace’s memories to power the crusade to end ALS. “We walk because of the fact that we want to honor those who have already been through this journey, we want to remember them, and help raise funds for those who are going through it now,” Jennifer tearfully shared.
The Walk brings hope to our ALS community, hope for a world without ALS. Jennifer shared, “I hope until then, ALS Texas continues their mission and the Walk is an imperative part of making the mission successful.”
When you join the Walk to Defeat ALS, you support critical research for a cure, to clinics, to virtual support groups. When you walk, you show Texans with ALS and their families that they don’t have to fight this disease alone. We Walk to honor those like Trace Craft who have passed from this disease. We walk to celebrate those who are bravely fighting this disease.
Take any positive word or words you want and put it behind ‘I Can.’ We can make a difference in this world. – Trace Craft