Appalachian State University and its Beaver College of Health Sciences, along with Appalachian Regional Healthcare System, partnered with the ALS Association North Carolina Chapter to sponsor the university’s inaugural Walk to Defeat ALS.

More than 500 walkers participated in the event Saturday, raising nearly $47,000 for the ALS Association and its mission of research, advocacy and service.

This year’s event was organized to honor Dr. Dane Ward, dean of libraries at Appalachian. Ward was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) — also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease — in October 2017, shortly after he and his wife, Jenny Ward, director of development in the Beaver College of Health Sciences (BCHS), moved to Boone. ALS is a progressive neurodegenerative disease that affects the nerve cells of the brain and spinal cord.

“I am so grateful for the tremendous support of our community for Appalachian’s first Walk to Defeat ALS,” Ward said. “The large turnout and funds raised highlight the caring nature of the High Country and our collective willingness to help each other during times of need.”

Dr. Marie Huff, dean of the BCHS, spearheaded the event with an original goal of $25,000 — a goal that was surpassed by almost double. Additionally, Appalachian Mountain Brewery in Boone held a separate fundraiser Saturday evening after the Defeat ALS Walk, the funds from which supplemented those raised by the walkers.

“These kinds of events not only address a great cause, but they’re bonding experiences,” Huff said. “It brings people together, gives people a sense of pride about being part of the university or part of a team and doing something to make other people’s lives better.”

In addition to the walk, the BCHS hosted Dr. Richard Bedlack, professor of neurology at Duke University and director of the Duke ALS Clinic, on Friday in Appalachian’s Leon Levine Hall of Health Sciences. His presentation, “ALS: An Overview,” may be viewed here.

ALS usually strikes individuals between the ages of 40 and 70, and approximately 20,000 people in the U.S. have the disease at any given time. Although there is no cure for ALS or a treatment that halts the disease’s progression, scientists funded through the ALS Association’s global research program have made significant progress in understanding what causes the disease.

In the words of the ALS Association, “Fundraising through the walk drives bold and urgent innovation as we march together toward a cure for ALS.”

Article written by Audrey Gurkin, courtesy of Appalachian State University

Photo by Marie Freeman