Meet Our Legacy Society Members

Jessy Ybarra and family
Jessy Ybarra and family

Looking Forward: Life, Legacy, and a Cure

Meet Jessy Ybarra

"Jessy Ybarra served in the United States Air Force. He is a dedicated family man, an advocate for the ALS community and one of the most generous people you’ll ever meet”, explained Melissa McElvain of The ALS Association’s Greater San Diego Chapter. “He’s an inspiration to many because he chooses to live his life with hope and is always looking forward with an optimistic mindset.”

Jessy’s journey with ALS began in 2015, at 51 years of age. He was very fit but noticed increasing fatigue, and his left arm wasn’t keeping up with his right arm when lifting weights. Then a relentless twitch in his left triceps led him to go see a neurologist. He had his first EMG test that showed early motor neuron deterioration. He asked the doctor what it might be, and he said: “It might be ALS, but we have to rule everything else out first.” Not knowing what ALS was, Jessy asked, “What’s the prognosis?” The doctor said, “It’s 100% fatal, Mr. Ybarra.”

He stopped smoking, started meditating and took an autoimmune shotgun approach to treatment. After 18 months of tests and a second opinion, Jessy received the three-letter diagnosis no one wants to hear: ALS.

Jessy utilized his Department of Veteran Affairs resources and attended clinic at University of California San Diego. “That’s where I first met the Greater San Diego Chapter staff,” he said. Since then, Jessy’s involvement with the Chapter has been bountiful. He serves on the Board of Directors, has been involved in various advocacy and research efforts, and always offers to connect with newly diagnosed people living with ALS.

Jessy additionally served on the Chapter’s 2021 Legacy Campaign Committee to encourage others to consider leaving a legacy gift in one’s will, trust or another gift plan as he and many others have done. He included The ALS Association Greater San Diego Chapter as a beneficiary of his life insurance policy as he planned for retirement.

“I never knew about legacy giving, but it’s easy to do. I’m doing this because it frees me up to do what I want today, support my family tomorrow and support the Chapter in the future. I believe there’s a cure out there – just waiting in the wings to be discovered – and we need the funding to find it. Funding today and in the future.”

Today, Jessy is 57, retired, and he finds joy in looking ahead. “I keep making plans that are 3 months, 6 months and a year ahead. Making plans generates hope, excitement and a future for me to live into!” He just did a trip to Hawaii with friends in September and has plans for future concerts, an Alaskan cruise, and a big family reunion this year.

“Making a difference and creating memories with my loved ones is how I choose to define my legacy. ALS might be taking my strength, but it won’t take my aliveness!”

To learn how to leave a legacy gift of your own, visit als.plannedgiving.org or contact Casey Saunders, Associate Director of Planned Giving, at casey.saunders@als.org.