BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) – Western New Yorkers spent Saturday morning taking steps to help save lives. Hundreds of people came together to take part in the annual Walk to Defeat ALS.
“This is the biggest fundraising source for every ALS Association chapter in the country, and so it’s very important,” said Jay Nowak, who was walking in honor of his mother, Lonnie. “We’re going to beat our goal this year of well over $175,000.”
Among the walkers this year was Bills star Lesean McCoy, who lost his grandmother to ALS, prompting him to form a foundation to help find a cure.
ALS, which is more commonly known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease, is a neurodegenerative disease that causes the nerves in the spinal cord to deteriorate. “What happens is that people who have ALS slowly lose control of their voluntary motor functions,” explained Elizabeth Krisanda, Executive Director of the Upstate New York Chapter of the ALS Association.
ALS is fatal. There is no cure.
But, thanks to the funding from Walk to Defeat ALS events nationwide and the Ice Bucket Challenge craze that recently swept the globe, there have been new breakthroughs, giving patients and their families new hope. “In the past couple years, we’ve discovered several new genes that we know are causing ALS and there are some new drug therapies that are in the pipeline,” Krisanda said.
All of the money raised at the Walk to Defeat ALS goes toward continued research and toward supporting local patient programs and services for people with ALS.
Lonnie Nowak, who was recognized by the Upstate New York Chapter of the ALS Association as this year’s Honorary Person with ALS, has directly benefited from those programs.
“My father and her have received donations of medical equipment that cost thousands and thousands of dollars,” Lonnie’s son, Jay, told News 4. “And also ALS support groups and the staff that has come over and done home visits and helped them out with love and support.”
Jay Nowak says he’s grateful for all who showed their support for the cause by taking part in Saturday’s walk.
In prior years, the walk was held at the Ralph Wilson Stadium. This year, it started at Coca-Cola Field, and included a mile long route down to Key Bank Center, around HarborCenter, and back up to the ball field.
If you did not take part in this year’s Walk to Defeat ALS, you can still donate to a team or walker to add to this year’s fundraising total. Learn more here.