Lumina News file photos
Quinn Miller, Jim Miller and Pam Carroll raise funds for the ALS Association Jim “Catfish” Hunter Chapter at the 2011 Cheers for a Cure.
Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), which is often known by baseball’s Lou Gehrig, is a disease that affects nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord, which control voluntary muscle movement. While there is no known cure for ALS and only one approved prescription drug treatment, each year thousands of people unite to raise awareness and funds by participating in the national Walk to Defeat ALS, an event organized by the ALS Association.
The annual Wilmington Walk to Defeat ALS 3k is planned for Saturday, April 20 at the University of North Carolina Wilmington’s Greene Track and Field, with check-in beginning at 9 a.m. and walk at 10 a.m.
Each year in lieu of a registration fee, walk participants raise anywhere from $100 to $100,000 in donations. Some people join forces to form teams, including the Jay Miller’s “Circle of Friends” walking team that participates in the ALS walk every year.
Preceding race day, the “Circle of Friends” team raises funds and awareness by holding its annual “Cheers for a Cure” event in celebration and memory of local resident Jay Miller, who passed away from ALS eight years ago.
Miller’s sisters, Pam Carroll and Quinn Miller, said in an interview on Wednesday, April 10 that they began “Cheers for a Cause” in honor of their brother, but to benefit the ALS Association’s Jim “Catfish” Hunter Chapter.
“[The fundraiser] is mostly for research and to help find a cure, and help assist people who have ALS” Miller said.
With a life expectancy of three to five years after diagnosis, Carroll said that the news came as a shock when their brother was diagnosed in his late 20s, and the sisters witnessed the affect it had on their middle brother and his family.
“This disease is so terribly devastating, we wanted to help in any way that we could. … It’s a very slow process of paralysis, but it doesn’t affect your mind, so the person who has it is fully aware of everything going on,” Carroll said.
Even after his death, the sisters moved forward with supporting Jay’s “Circle of Friends” by throwing a party he would have approved of, Carroll said.
“A lot people were surprised that we could even face this after seeing what [ALS] does emotionally and physically to somebody and everyone around that person, but deep down we knew that we still had to do this, as hard as it was,” Carroll said.
“Jay was one of those people [who] liked to have fun, he was a jokester and kept us on our toes … so, when we came up with the event we had to make it as if Jay were here, and he would have made it a party,” she continued.
The event features live music by Signal Fire Acoustic, while the raffle and silent auction list includes donated items like Carolina Panthers tickets, massages from Sacred Spirit and Head to Toe Day Spa, gifts from Two Wheeler Dealer, Coastal Athletics and Running Without Limits, plus jewelry specially made by Colby Byrd from Shelton Metal to remember Jay Miller and raise ALS awareness.
Carroll said that donations come from community friends and businesses up until the day of the event. “Cheers for a Cure would not be possible without the huge support of the community and friends every year and we cannot thank them enough,” she said.
This year’s “Cheers For a Cure” will be held on Friday, April 19 from 6:30 – 9:30 p.m. at the Palm Room in Wrightsville Beach, with a $5 donation at the door.
To learn more about the ALS Walk or team-sponsored events, visit webnc.alsa.org