Young ALS Patients Come Together to End ALS with New National Campaign

05/21/2010
By: ALS TDI Press Office

Cambridge, Mass.May 21, 2010 – The ALS Therapy Development Institute (ALS TDI) announced today that it is supporting a new awareness campaign driven by several ALS patients diagnosed with the progressive neurodegenerative disease commonly known as Lou Gehrig's disease before the age of 30.  This campaign, called 'Young Faces of ALS', is designed and led by a group of seven young men and women and will consist of a group effort to visit each of the 30 Major League Baseball (MLB) parks during the 2010 baseball season.  The Young Faces of ALS Campaign will leverage this national platform to educate people about how ALS can strike anyone and that there are no typical ALS patients.  They hope to encourage greater action toward supporting on-going research at ALS TDI to slow and stop the disease.  ALS TDI was co-founded by Stephen Heywood, who was diagnosed with ALS at age 29.  Stephen lost his battle with ALS during the fall of 2008.  

Corey Reich

        'For 70 years Lou Gehrig has been the face of ALS.  Sadly, in that time, not a single effective therapeutic has been discovered and most Americans know little-to-nothing about the disease.  It is time to put a new, younger face on the disease.  I hope to be that face, and not only raise awareness, but also the funding necessary to put an end to ALS,' said Corey Reich, 24, of Piedmont, California.  Corey was diagnosed with ALS three years ago at 21 years old.  Since his diagnosis, Corey has raised more than $1 million for research with the help of his family and friends.  He is currently the assistant tennis coach at Piedmont High School and an outspoken ALS patient ambassador.

Melissa Erikson

        'ALS is a disease that doesn't draw much attention because it is perceived as your grandfather's disease. A sickness that affects a man that has lived a full life. It is quite the opposite. It touches the lives of young people every day. This debilitating, cruel and inhumane disease deserves your attention. We deserve a cure,' said former University of Washington basketball star Melissa Erikson of Seattle, who was diagnosed with ALS 7 years ago at age 27.

Megan Mishork

        The Young Faces of ALS campaign will kick off at the San Francisco Giants vs. Oakland Athletics game in Oakland on May 23rd.  Reich and Erikson will both be present, as well as Megan Mishork, also of the Bay Area, who was diagnosed with ALS at the age of 24 two years ago.  ALS runs in Mishork's family and has been traced back at least five generations.

        Several local celebrities will also be on hand to help kick off the Young Faces of ALS campaign, including: former Major League pitcher Vida Blue, former San Francisco 49er Ronnie Lott, and Shonta Scoggins, whose husband Eric played for the 49ers and passed away from ALS last year.  Lott is a board member of 'Eric's Vision' a local nonprofit foundation that funds ALS research and provides athletic scholarships.  Reich and Erikson will venture across the Bay to AT&T Park for the second installment of the national campaign when the San Francisco Giants host the Washington Nationals on May 26th. Other Young Faces of ALS campaign members include:

Ian Hogg

        Ian Hogg, a retired US Marine Sergeant, who served in Iraq.  Hogg, age 29, lives near Birmingham, Alabama, with his wife and two young daughters.  Ian and his family will be making the trip to Atlanta to represent the group during a Braves game at Turner Field. 'When I returned home from Iraq I thought I was done fighting. Now, I am fighting for my life against an enemy that has been killing for over 70 years. We cannot win this fight alone.  I am dedicated to seek out anyone who will stand by us as we wage war on this deadly disease,' said Hogg.

Timothy LaFollette

        Timothy LaFollette, a musician from Greensboro, North Carolina, was diagnosed with ALS after a year of testing at the age of 29.  Tim's ALS is derived from a rare genetic variant caused by a genetic mutation.  Tim's friends and family have organized themselves into a group known as the 'Often Awesome Army,' whose 1000+ members provide Tim with support through online and in-person activities.  Tim will leverage this support system to build awareness via social media and attend as many games as possible.

Alex Grausnick

        Alex Grausnick of Minnesota was diagnosed with ALS at the young age of 17.  Currently, Alex, 20, is a full-time Accounting and Spanish major student at University of St. Thomas in addition to working part-time.  Grausnick will represent the ambitious group at several games in the Midwest.

Alyssa Reardon

        Alyssa Reardon, of Plantation, Florida, was diagnosed with ALS four years ago at the age of 20.  Reardon will be representing the Young Faces of ALS Campaign at both a Florida Marlins game in Miami and a Tampa Bay Rays match-up in Tampa.  'I was 20 year old, NOT even legally allowed to drink alcohol, but I was allowed to be diagnosed with a terminal illness without hope! Doesn't seem right does it? If we do not find a treatment soon, forget about saving money for your child's college fund, your daughter's wedding or your own retirement. You're going to need every penny for their medical expenses, making your house accessible for someone who is in a wheelchair, hospital bed etc. Help us stop this disease before it becomes an epidemic!,' said Reardon.

        A grassroots movement, this Young Faces of ALS group is using Facebook and other online social media to share information about the campaign, including pictures from the games each of them attend.  The group regularly meets via conference call or video call and works together to choose who will go to each game.   The group also invites other ALS patients diagnosed at a young age to contact them and get involved with the campaign.  An anonymous donor provided funding to execute their project and the group relies on their friends and other ALS patients in the cities they visit to help provide other forms of support. 

        Wherever the group goes they will be answering questions and fundraising via text message set up by the Institute.  People can donate $5.00 to ALS research and in support of the Young Faces Campaign by sending 'EndALS' to 20222.  A website is planned that will contain full bios, pictures and a blog regarding the group's efforts and travels during the 2010 baseball season.  This public awareness campaign is an independent effort and is not affiliated with MLB or any specific baseball organization.  For more information, please email us at info@als.net