If you are fortunate enough to cross paths with a few extraordinary people in life, they leave such an indelible mark that you are never the same. Sarah Nauser is one of those people.
For eight years, Sarah earned high praise as a young, vibrant, rising star within the Kansas City Police Department. She was living her dream – one on which she locked her sights at an early age.
“As a teenager, I was a manager of a pizza restaurant where many of the police officers came to eat,” said Sarah, who was born and raised in Blue Springs. “I befriended several officers and decided to do a ride-along. I was hooked and instantly knew that was what I wanted to do.”
At age 15, she immediately did everything necessary to put herself in a position to live out that dream. She joined the KCPD Police Explorers program for youth to learn and participate in hands-on activities. She worked a security internship at Worlds of Fun while attending school. Then, the day after turning 21, she began her career as a police officer in the Kansas City Police Academy on her very first day eligible.
She quickly became a top-notch officer, serving in numerous patrol divisions and didn’t shy away from dangerous assignments. She was selected to be on the Crisis Intervention Team that helped people during the moment of crisis or when experiencing mental health issues. “This became my passion because I was able to help others who thought there was no way out.”
Her career of service was off to a flying start. She was aggressively doing her part in making Kansas City a better place to live, work and play, just as she had envisioned when serving up pizzas to the officers a few years earlier.
While Sarah was now definitively achieving those youth ambitions as a police officer, she admits her ultimate dream was even more specific. Sarah had loved baseball as long as she remembers and would follow the Royals passionately. She calls Kauffman Stadium her “happy place.” So, deep in her soul, she wanted to be the police officer who worked the Royals games while standing in the team dugout.
That dream would also come true for a moment, but not in the way Sarah ever envisioned.
On May 31, 2018, at the young age of 30, Sarah was diagnosed with ALS. Commonly known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, named after the legendary baseball player, ALS is brutal and crippling. Sarah has not been able to escape the physical toll the disease takes on a body. Today, she is confined to a wheelchair, has limited movement and uses an eye-controlled device to communicate.
True to her nature, Sarah has faced this life-threatening challenge with an astonishingly positive attitude and a resilience to bring good out of her circumstance.
In fact, Sarah may be impacting more lives now with her passionate work on ALS and other community initiatives than she ever could have as a police officer.
Shortly after her diagnosis, as physical tasks became harder to do, Sarah knew it was time to retire as a police officer. Remember that ultimate dream? On her last shift in uniform, she worked the Royals game from the hometown team’s dugout.
“That night, I met George Brett and Salvador Perez. George promised to be by my side while I fought ALS. Nearly four years later, he has kept his promise.”
Her evening in the Royals dugout was the end of one life phase for Sarah and the beginning of another.
She immediately jumped into action in her fight not only for herself, but also to help others suffering from ALS. Unable to access extensive treatments in the United States, Sarah traveled to China for two weeks to receive stem-cell treatments that would give her the best opportunity to battle the disease. Upon her return, she was one of the driving forces behind a bill in Congress referred to as ACT for ALS. The Accelerating Access to Critical Therapies for ALS Act provides access to promising investigational treatments to people living with ALS who are not eligible for clinical trials.
“I was on numerous zoom calls sharing my story with legislators,” she recalls. “It was signed into law on December 23, 2021 and was one of very few bills that passed unanimously in the Senate.”
Triumphant yes, but Sarah didn’t stop there.
She also helped lead a committee with several other ALS advocates for nearly two years seeking Major League Baseball to create an annual event to build public recognition about ALS. That work resulted in the inaugural Lou Gehrig Day last season in every MLB stadium. “It was a huge success and a great avenue for spreading awareness for ALS,” Sarah beamed.
In Kansas City that day, the Royals team wore t-shirts adorned with “#SARAHSSOLDIERS” and “#FIGHTLIKEAGIRL” in honor of Sarah. “The Royals support has been unwavering.”
Beyond her leadership in the fight against ALS, Sarah’s impact on people she meets stems simply from her spirit, her service and her smile. She is always the presence in the room that exudes encouragement and inspiration.
Royals broadcaster Joel Goldberg, who has walked alongside Sarah in her efforts to battle ALS, has been “blown away” with her approach to life. “I work every day with two of the most upbeat human beings in the world, Salvador Perez and Rex Hudler. The only person I know who is more positive than Salvy or Hud is Sarah. She’s using this awful disease to make people’s lives better and brighter every day. She truly has a unique gift, and I’m grateful to call her a friend.”
“Initially, I just wanted to make a difference for ALS,” Sarah said, “but that has grown into wanting to inspire everyone, especially those trying to work through struggles in life.”
The message she likes to share?
“No matter what you’re up against, life is precious, and you can make every day count. Every dream, no matter how big or small, go all-in 100 percent and make the very most of whatever that is.”
Sarah has received numerous awards, including the Tom Watson Award for Courage from the ALS Association in 2019. In honor of her relentless pursuit to help others, Sarah was introduced as a “Blue KC Hometown Hero” at The K on June 24, 2022. Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Kansas City will make a $2,500 donation to benefit The Battle Within in her name.
“That I would still be considered a hero, although I’m not wearing a badge or gun anymore, is an honor,” Sarah said. “The Kansas City community has really lifted me up since my diagnosis. Being recognized by the Royals and Blue KC as a hero to this community is very special.”
The title of hero is saved for a select few who are greatly admired for courage and achievement, and take a journey rocked by obstacles and turn it into a platform to do good for others. That, friends, is Sarah Nauser.