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Walk to D'Feet ALS

[The following is from the Monday, June 10, 2002 Harrisburg Patriot-News]

Hundreds Take Part in Midstate Effort to Find Cure for ALS


Of the Patriot-News

ALS may be a devastating disease, but more than 800 brave souls stood up to it yesterday and walked to find a cure.

Friends, families and victims of ALS, also known as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis or Lou Gehrig's disease, hiked three miles from City Island to Kunkel Plaza on Front Street and back, fulfilling pledges to walk for a cure.

The entourage included walkers, some pushing stroller or pulling wagons, wheelchair users, in-line skaters, dogs, clowns and even a team of young cheerleaders.

Most of those participating were members of a team supporting a patient or honoring the memory of someone who died from the disease. Many wore colorful T-shirts with the team's name written across the front.

Totals for the day came to about $125,000, "but there's lots more pledge money coming in," said Nancy J. Venner, director of development for the ALS Association, Greater Philadelphia Chapter.

The goal was $150,000 for the second Walk to D'Feet ALS. Last year about 740 walkers raised about $123,000, Venner said.

Organized last year by the Greater Philadelphia Chapter and siblings Scott Zimmerman and Jody Zimmerman Laverty, the walk honored their father, Bruce Zimmerman of Hummelstown, who lost his two-year battle with ALS in March.

ALS is a progressive neuromuscular disorder that slowly paralyzes and eventually kills its victims. The cause and a cure remain unknown.

Andy Guest, 37, of Mechanicsburg, an ALS patient, completed the walk yesterday in a wheelchair with about 45 members of his team, "Big Daddy's Bunch" who raised about $6,000, he said.

Guest said that a year ago he noticed some weakness in his left ankle.

"I couldn't walk normally and it progressively got worse. It runs through some people very fast. I can still walk, but it's a horrible disease," he said.

He has retired and lives on disability with his wife, who has epilepsy, and two children. Despite the illness, he is counting his blessings.

"I look at my kids -- they are the love of my life. The hardest part for me is that I might not be here for them," Guest said.

His team was one of 50 that took part in the walk. About 135 families in the midstate are affected by the disease.

The highest amount collected among individuals was $2,055 from Luther Homsher of Mount Joy.

The highest fund-raising team was Kelley's Krusaders of Harrisburg with $17,155. Second place was Zoomin for Zimmie with $13,988 and third was the ALS Resource Group and Clinic Team with $13,592.

TransCore was the highest contributing corporate team with $2,310.

The Greater Philadelphia Chapter, the largest and most active in the nation, supports the ALS Clinic at Penn State Milton S. Hershey Medical Center.

"We're not going to find a cure tomorrow, but that's why we have these walks," said Susan Walsh, patient services coordinator for the Philadelphia Chapter.

ROBERT ROSS: 255-8167 or 




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