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Help me help people with ALS

Help me help people with ALS debgardner.jpg
I don't often promote fund-raisers or causes in my column. But this month, I want to ask my readers especially those of you who live in Connecticut to help support ALS advocate and Red Sox pitcher Curt Shilling's "Pitch to Win" fund-raiser for the ALS Association at Shaw's Supermarkets and Osco Pharmacies from July 12 through Aug. 5. This fund-raiser matters to me because my dad, Clayton Fuller, was diagnosed with ALS in February. The ALS Association was the first place my family called for help in understanding the disease. ALS stands for Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis. It's also known as Lou Gehrig's Disease, after the Yankees baseball player who died of the illness in 1941. Sales associates at Shaw's and Osco will ask customers if they would like help fight ALS by purchasing a "strike" for $1.38 or an "out" for $3.38 at checkout. Each contributor will receive a "Curt's Pitch for ALS" paper baseball on which they can write their name or special message. The baseballs will be displayed in the store. The monies raised will help the ALS Association, the only non-profit, volunteer organization dedicated to this devastating disease, provide patient and caregiver support and services, fund research, and raise public awareness about ALS. In a nutshell, when a person has ALS, the nerve cells that control muscle movement slowly die, leaving the person initially off balance and prone to falling or tripping, then weak, and eventually, completely paralyzed. At this time, what triggers this disease is unknown, and only 10% of cases have a family history of ALS. The Massachusetts chapter of the ALS Association currently lists about 30 cases of the disease in the Western Mass. area, of which my dad is one. To our knowledge, we have no family history of ALS. My dad, unfortunately, seems to have the rapidly advancing kind of ALS. He now spends much of his time in a special wheelchair that helps support his head and neck, or in bed. My mom, with help from Baystate Health Systems' visiting nurse program, is his main caregiver. Regular readers of this column know I've written about my dad many times. He's always been an active, vibrant man who loved flying, the outdoors, and taking care of his home and yard. Last August, he taught my then five-year-old son to climb a tree. I can't put into words how I feel, seeing him now. If you happen to be in a Shaw's or Osco this summer, I hope you'll think about buying a baseball to help fight ALS. Curt, my dad, and I thank you. Debbie Gardner PRIME Editor dgardner@reminderpublications.com