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S&A Helps to Raise ALS Awareness by Participating in the Inaugural Akron/Canton/Wooster Walk to Defeat ALS®

On Sunday, October 9, 2005, the ALS Association Northern Ohio Chapter conducted its first ever Akron/Canton/Wooster Walk to Defeat ALS® which took place at the Kent State/Stark Campus in North Canton.  The walk was co-sponsored by Akron Life & Leisure magazine, a lifestyles publication serving Summit, Portage, Medina and Stark Counties.  This walk was the last of three regional efforts to raise ALS awareness and funds to support a number of patient services and programs.  This year’s effort collectively resulted in the raising of over $200,000.00 which constituted a new record for the sponsor, the ALS Association Northern Ohio Chapter.

In its inaugural year, 200 individuals participated in the Akron/Canton/Wooster walk.  S&A’s own Lou Gehrig look-a-like, Eric Skidmore, participated in the event.  “I enjoyed the ACW walk very much, which provided an opportunity to raise ALS awareness at a new venue in Northeast Ohio,” said Skidmore.  With approximately 35 supporters, Chad Blooming, a Wooster resident, walked in the event under the team name, “Blooming’s Believers.”  “I met Mr. Blooming during the walk and we talked for about 10-15 minutes.  He had a great perspective on life and his affliction and I noted his quick wit and sense of humor,” said Skidmore. 

ALS stands for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, otherwise known as “Lou Gehrig’s Disease”.  The disease damages motor neurons that contribute to the death of nerves that enable muscle movement.  However, the cause remains rather mysterious and treatment is just as mysterious, although encouraging.

On July 4, 1939, baseball Hall-of-Famer, Lou Gehrig, was forced from the game because of the disease.  Lou Gehrig died on June 2, 1941. 

“Recently, I read a book entitled, ‘Luckiest Man:  The Life and Death of Lou Gehrig’ by Jonathan Eig (1), which I would recommend for all to read,” said Skidmore.  Skidmore’s favorite passage from the book is as follows:

“Today, about Five Thousand Americans a year are diagnosed with ALS.  Scientists still don’t know what causes the disease, and they still don’t have a cure.  Most patients die within two or three years of diagnosis. . . [t]he biggest difference perhaps, is that the malady is now widely referred to in the United States as Lou Gehrig’s disease.  Gehrig helped lift this rare and poorly understood malady from obscurity.  Countless millions of dollars have been raised for scientific research thanks in good part to his name.  Many neurologists hang pictures of the ball player in their offices and examination rooms.  When they break the news to patients with ALS, they almost always invoke his name.  But, after the initial shock, patients often reflect on Gehrig’s response to his diagnosis, rather than the outcome of his illness. ***  “ALS is a disease of weakness, but Lou Gehrig’s disease is associated with strength – the strength of a stricken man who said he felt lucky.” 

“If I can help in a small way to perpetuate Gehrig’s memory and raise awareness for his disease, I will do what I can and I take solace in the fact that it may help the afflicted and their families,” concluded Skidmore.

Eig, Jonathan.  Luckiest Man:  The Life and Death of Lou Gehrig.  Simon & Schuster, 2005.