Young Faces of ALS Campaign to Surpass Half-Way Point with Three Appearances this Week

Milwaukee Brewers, Atlanta Braves and Seattle Mariners Welcome Campaign Ambassadors

CAMBRIDGE, Mass., Aug. 25 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ --The Young Faces of ALS (YFALS) Campaign (http://www.facebook.com/YoungFacesOfALS) raises awareness of ALS and those diagnosed with the progressive neurodegenerative disease at a young age.  Starting today, the campaign will make stops at Major League Baseball ballparks in Milwaukee, Atlanta and Seattle.  YFALS was launched earlier this year (by the ALS Therapy Development Institute) with the goal of creating a greater understanding of ALS and the fact that it can strike anyone at any stage of life.  All Campaign Ambassadors were diagnosed with ALS before age 30.

The first event will take place today, as the YFALS team visits Miller Park, home of the Milwaukee Brewers.  Kristen Sauer, a self-described "Brewer fanatic," was diagnosed with ALS on the same day that she found out that she was pregnant.  That was in 2001 when she was 24 years old.  "I was just beginning a new stage in my life as a wife and a mother when ALS cut me off at the knees," she recalls. Sauer and her son will be attending the game with an entourage of nearly 20 other family members and friends.

The youngest member of the YFALS campaign will also be attending the Brewers game this week, Alex Grausnick, who was diagnosed with ALS three years ago at the age of 17.  Grausnick acted as YFALS ambassador at a Texas Rangers recently, and will be attending tonight's match-up with his father.  "When I first got diagnosed it was a smack right in the face.  I went from wondering what I would do that summer to wondering if I would even go to college.  But I've read a lot about the effects of positive thinking, and it's helped make me feel better," said Grausnick.

Two days later, and nearly 2000 miles to the northwest, the second YFALS event of the week will take place at Safeco Field, home of the Seattle Mariners.  "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 ALS. I hope to be that face, and raise not only awareness, but also the funding necessary to put an end to this disease," said Corey Reich, of Piedmont, California, who was diagnosed with ALS three years ago, at the age of 21.  Despite the illness having strained his voice and forced him to use a cane, Reich will have made appearances at six different ballparks this year as an YFALS representative.  Joining Reich for the August 27th game in Seattle will be former University of Washington basketball star and YFALS ambassador, Melissa Erikson, who was given her own ALS diagnosis at the age of 27.

The week of activities will wrap up the following evening when two other YFALS ambassadors, Marine Sergeant Ian Hogg and Alyssa Reardon take to Turner Field, home of the Atlanta Braves.  Sgt. Hogg was diagnosed with ALS shortly after returning from Iraq in 2009; "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 the 28 year old father of two, who will be traveling from his home in Alabama to attend the game with his wife and daughters.

His fellow YFALS ambassador for the evening, Alyssa Reardon, was told that she had ALS four years ago at the age of 20. Reardon will be making the trip from Plantation, Florida with her sister to help raise awareness of ALS in Atlanta.  "I was 20 years old, NOT even legally allowed to drink alcohol, but I was allowed to be diagnosed with ALS!  Doesn't seem right does it?" commented Reardon about facing the reality of an ALS diagnosis at a young age.  "ALS picked the wrong girl to mess with.  If it wants me, it's gotta learn to keep up."

"Visiting every Major League ballparks is a dream for any baseball fan.  But, even for someone in perfect health and with the time to spare, it's not something easily done during a single season.  I'd like to say that I am surprised by the success of this campaign and the attention these young people are getting, but I am not.  If you take the time to get to know them, you quickly come to admire their selflessness and passion to have a lasting impact in this world despite the challenges they face as young people living with ALS every day.  It is humbling, and a reminder that we must go faster in the lab to develop effective treatments for ALS," said Steve Perrin, chief executive officer of the campaign's beneficiary, the ALS Therapy Development Institute.

After these three appearances, the campaign, which includes several other members, will have reached the half-way point in its goal of attending each of the Major League Baseball parks this summer.  Next month, YFALS ambassadors will attend events at ballparks in several cities, including Los Angeles, Denver, and Toronto.  For more information about all Young Faces of ALS Campaign dates, and to see pictures and video from previous events visit http://www.als.net/youngfacesofals or join the group's Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/YoungFacesOfALS for the latest updates and to connect with other young people living with ALS today.  

Major League Baseball has a long history of supporting the fight against ALS.  As part of the 4 ALS League-wide initiative, all Clubs support the ALS cause with special ballpark ceremonies and efforts to benefit local organizations dedicated to finding a cure for this disease.  For more information, please visit http://www.mlb.com/4als.

About ALS Therapy Development Institute

The mission of the ALS Therapy Development Institute (ALS TDI) is to develop effective therapeutics that slow or stop amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS, Lou Gehrig's disease), as soon as possible.  Focused on meeting this urgent unmet medical need, ALS TDI executes a robust discovery program, while running the world's largest efforts to pre-clinically validate potential therapeutics; including small molecules, protein biologics, gene therapies and cell-based constructs.  The world's first nonprofit biotech, ALS TDI has developed an industrial-scale platform that allows for the development and testing of dozens of potential therapeutics each year.  Built by and for patients, the Institute is the world's only nonprofit biotechnology company with more than 30 professional scientists.  In addition, the Cambridge, Massachusetts based research Institute collaborates with leaders in both academia and industry to accelerate ALS therapeutic development.  For more information, please visit us online at www.als.net.

Media Contact:  Robert A. Goldstein, ALS Therapy Development Institute, rgoldstein@als.net, 617-441-7295

SOURCE ALS Therapy Development Foundation



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