ALS Association honors Lou Gehrig

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Seventy-five years ago, on July 4, 1939, Lou Gehrig delivered what is now known as sports’ most famous speech. Suffering from the symptoms of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), he died less than two years later at the age of 37.

Today, Gehrig remains an inspiration, representing fortitude, humility and courage to the tens of thousands of Americans living with Lou Gehrig’s disease.

During this special anniversary year, beginning in May, ALS Awareness Month, and culminating in July, the ALS Association South Carolina Chapter will be honoring Gehrig’s legacy in a nationwide campaign to raise money for cutting-edge research to find treatments and a cure for the cruel disease that now bears his name. To learn more about Gehrig and the state of ALS research, visit www.ALSA.org/75.

“Fans, for the past two weeks you have been reading about the bad break I got. Yet today I consider myself the luckiest man on the face of this earth,” were Lou Gehrig’s words on July 4, 1939, at Yankee Stadium. As teammates, fans, friends and family looked on and wept, he concluded his speech that day with the iconic words: “I might have had a bad break, but I’ve got an awful lot to live for.”

ALS is a progressive neurodegenerative disease that affects nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord. Eventually, people with ALS lose the ability to initiate and control muscle movement, which often leads to total paralysis and death within two to five years of diagnosis. For unknown reasons, veterans are about twice as likely to develop ALS as the general population.

“While Gehrig was the first face of ALS, this ALS Awareness Month we want to not only honor his legacy, but also recognize the individuals here in South Carolina who are currently impacted by the disease,” said Rebecca Jordan, chapter executive director.

The S.C. chapter was founded in February 2006 to serve people throughout the state diagnosed with ALS.

The goal of the chapter is to provide compassionate care and understanding, as well as the knowledge and resources to deal with the day-to-day challenges that ALS presents, while helping them maintain a good quality of life and hope. We do this by providing educational materials, referrals, counseling, support groups, financial assistance, advocacy and equipment loans.

Groundbreaking research

Visitors to www.ALSA.org/75 can learn more about Lou Gehrig, ALS and the latest groundbreaking research. They can also read stories of those impacted by the disease or make a donation to support research projects led by the world’s top ALS scientists.

The S.C. chapter is encouraging users to share stories of people impacted by the disease via social media. Public service announcements (PSAs), web banners, infographics and social media assets (Facebook/Twitter/YouTube profile pictures and cover photos) are also available for download.

The outcome of an ALS diagnosis today isn’t much different than it was in Gehrig’s time. But there is much to be hopeful for right now as there have been significant advances in ALS research during the last several years.

Additionally, there have been major changes in the pharmaceutical industry and the drug development landscape.

“The severity of ALS, the absence of effective therapy and the importance of finding treatments for all neurodegenerative diseases, have combined to make ALS an attractive target for new approaches to drug discovery and development,” said Lucie Bruijn, chief scientist for the ALS Association.

The association’s Translational Research Advancing Therapies for ALS (TREAT ALS™) program actively funds all phases of ALS research. Inherent in the name of this program is its goal to “translate” research findings as quickly as possible into meaningful treatments and ultimately a cure for the disease. Participation in clinical trials is paramount to the success of these studies.

Until that cure is found, the ALS Association and its network of 38 chapters nationwide work directly with people living with the disease, their families and caregivers to help improve an individual’s quality of life and manage the impact of the disease.

The principle on which the association’s research program is based is “collaboration.” Rather than conducting its own research in a proprietary lab, the association’s approach to advancing ALS research involves forging partnerships among investigators, government officials, pharmaceutical and biotech companies, academic institutions and other individuals and industry leaders.

“Through the generosity of our donors, the association invests in projects that we, along with a panel of the world’s preeminent doctors and scientists, deem to have the highest degree of scientific merit and relevance to ALS. Presently, the association is funding 98 active projects with a total award value of $18.1 million,” Bruijn said. “There has never been a more exciting time for ALS research – but it’s crucial that we raise money to support the most promising research happening right now all over the globe.”

The ALS Association is thankful for the support of its corporate donors, who have contributed to the campaign to raise money for ALS research during ALS Awareness Month and through July, in honor of the 75th anniversary of Lou Gehrig’s famous farewell speech.

About ALS Association

The ALS Association is the only national nonprofit organization fighting Lou Gehrig’s disease on every front. By leading the way in global research, providing assistance for people with ALS through a nationwide network of chapters, coordinating multidisciplinary care through certified clinical care centers and fostering government partnerships, the association builds hope and enhances quality of life, while aggressively searching for new treatments and a cure. For details about the ALS Association, visit www.alsa.org.