“Oh, dear Dad, Can you see me now” – Release, Pearl Jam
On an unusually rainy day in El Paso, Texas, Wyndi Soto arrived at the annual Chalk the Block for the first time in nearly half a decade. She entered with her cousin in the professional division. She spent over 14 hours creating a piece of work 10 feet by 5 feet in length. The competition was intense, yet it reminded Wyndi of her father and the time they spent creating together in the past.
“I am myself, like you somehow” – Release, Pearl Jam
15 years ago, Wyndi’s father took her to the new Chalk the Block competition in downtown El Paso, Texas. Wyndi’s father urged her to compete, and in 2012 she entered the student division of the competition. With the help of her father, who always had urged her to take risks, they worked for seven hours to create a red octopus.
“My dad was also an artist. He loved to paint and airbrush. He taught me some technical skills when it came to art, but he also taught me how to be brave when it came to colors and design. My dad would always say, ‘I know this is going to sound crazy but just trust me it’s going to look awesome.’ And then find some way to take whatever he was working on to the next level.” Wyndi recalls.
Over the next four years, Wyndi and her father would work together to create works of art for the Chalk the Block competition.
“No matter where we were in our lives, we would always take that time to just catch up and spend the day together and really get to have one-on-one time with each other,” Wyndi shared.
“I’ll ride the wave, where it takes me” – Release, Pearl Jam
On the third year of Chalk the Block, Wyndi’s father began having trouble holding the chalk pastels. Thinking back to that time, Wyndi recalls that her father was reaching points of exhaustion much quicker than before. After losing strength in his left hand, he was told that he had a pinched nerve and was brought into surgery.
During the last year that Wyndi participated in Chalk the Block with her father she noticed that he was now losing strength in both of his hands.
“He wasn’t getting better and when he told me that he felt like there was really something wrong with him. I didn’t try to reassure him, I felt that our whole lives were going to change the moment that he said that. While we were working on it, he told me that he was going to see a neurologist next week.” Wyndi said.
After the visit with the neurologist, her father was diagnosed with ALS. After his diagnosis, the Mayo Clinic in Phoenix referred Wyndi’s father to the clinics in Texas. The process was very overwhelming, but with the help of ALS Texas Wyndi’s family was able to understand their resources better and find a community during such an isolating time. Wyndi’s Dad passed away in February of 2022.
“I’ll hold the pain, Release me” – Release by Pearl Jam
On a rainy day in October of 2022, Wyndi Soto competed in Chalk the Block in El Paso, Texas with a piece of art designed in honor of her father to bring awareness to ALS.
Her father was a lover of music and art, and although never a musician he and Wyndi always bonded over different songs that became soundtracks to their lives. Most notably, Release by Pearl Jam.
“I look back and I think 4 years wasn’t even long at all. It felt like it went on forever and then suddenly it was just over, but you must take the good with the bad. And the beauty of it all was that I got this relationship with my father that I don’t think anyone could have had in an average lifetime.”