His summer days were spent at the beach with his loyal dog by his side.
But for the last three years, a crippling neurological disease has kept Gary Herman away from the shore.
Now his daughter, Rachel, is on a mission to mobilize the man who supported his family for decades.
“My dad worked hard his whole life. [He] provided a good life for his family,” said the 23-year-old. “I want to give him a chance to have the independence he once had again. I want to take him to the boardwalk this summer.”
Gary Herman, 59, of Fresh Meadows, was diagnosed with motor neuron disease in 2011. The rapidly progressive illness, which attacks nerve cells in voluntary muscles, has made the retired teacher incapable of walking or moving much of his body.
“He used to go to the gym and walk the dog every morning,” said Rachel, who lives in Briarwood.
“His foot was dropped,” she said, recounting the early days of his condition. “He couldn’t lift it up all the way. He thought it was a problem with his muscles in his leg because he was going to the gym too much.”
Now the costs of renting a van each day, coupled with hospital bills, are piling up, Rachel said.
The doting daughter, who has three part-time jobs, has been raising funds to buy her dad a specially-equipped van to take him to doctors’ appointments, support groups — and back to the Long Beach boardwalk, which he has cherished his whole life.
“It’s been difficult to accept, but I just have to keep a clear mind about it and try not to get sad,” she said. “If I get sad, it’s just going to be pointless.”
Rachel said her family would later donate their van to the ALS Association’s greater New York chapter.
So far she has raised $5,614 for her cause, just $2,000 short of her goal.
“I think it would be nice for my dad to see the ocean again,” Rachel said.