Many participants gathered for a 5K ALS charity walk at Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium at 10 a.m. last Saturday morning to raise awareness and fund research for the twentieth annual “Walk to Defeat ALS.”
“Today’s event will raise funds for ALS to continue research, fight for advocacy, having access to equipment and to care for people battling this disease,” Jerry Dawson, president of the North Carolina chapter of the ALS Association, said.
Dawson said the chapter serves about 800 families every year in North Carolina. According to Dawson, the walk-a-thon in Greenville normally ranges from 400 to 700 walkers each year.
According to Dawson, The NC chapter of the ALS Association funds the Jim “Catfish” Hunter ALS clinic at Vidant Medical Center as well as funding four other clinics within the state. Hunter was a Major League Baseball player from the mid-sixties to the eighties who lost his life to ALS.
Dawson said he began working for the ALS Association after being recruited 19 years ago and being a long-time fan of Hunter while growing up.
Dawson said since the effects of the ALS “Ice Bucket Challenge,” which went viral about five years ago, the ALS Association has been able to raise over $89 million towards ALS research.
“We’ve been able to learn so much more about the disease since then and it’s truly been a game-changer that made a huge impact,” Dawson said.
Randall Martoccia, an English professor at ECU, said he’s been volunteering with North Carolina’s ALS chapter since 2001. Martoccia said his family puts together the chilli cook-off “Heat to Defeat” ALS in the fall season at Christy’s Euro Pub.
“After losing my father in 2000, I’ve been on the walk committee and we basically are a group that helps put together the walk,” Martoccia said.
Registration for the 5K opened at 8 a.m. Saturday and continued up until the race commenced. Participants made their way to the stage near the starting line as well as volunteers from many tents and vendors who were lined up outside Gate 5 of the stadium. Some booths handed out doughnuts, bananas, water and Gatorade for walkers.
Dawson ran several tables on Saturday and he said one of which had paper keys displayed. These were available for participants to write on and to honor any loved ones they might have lost to ALS disease. Anyone attending the event was given a lanyard with a metal key from the ALS Association as a symbol for those to hold the key to unlock the cure for ALS.
Many walkers wore team shirts to support the cause or to honor lost family and friends. Rewards were given to those who finished the walk first as well as prizes for best team shirt and best-dressed pet.
There was a small warm-up followed by the national anthem sung by Susan Howard and a small prayer.
Winton Felton III captivated the crowd by a sense of everyone coming together for this cause and he said, “this disease knows no differences, it attacks all.”
Joyce Shaw, a participant in the 5K, walked in honor of her niece. Her family, most from Snow Hill, all came today with burgundy team shirts with step footprints for the walk.
“She was forty when she lost her life to ALS in 2005. Today, I came from North Babylon, New York for her and the rest of the family,” Shaw said.