Ride for Life Ceremony Honors ALS Patients and Families

Released: 24-May-2013 1:45 PM EDT
Source Newsroom: Stony Brook Medicine
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$150,000 donated to support Stony Brook Medicine research and ALS Center of Excellence

Newswise — STONY BROOK, N.Y., May 21, 2013 – Greeted by their families, supporters and a shining display of 6,000 pinwheels, Christopher Pendergast, a 20-year ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis) patient and advocate, and other ALS patients, rode onto the Stony Brook University Campus for the annual “Ride for Life” Celebration and Remembrance Ceremony, marking the halfway point of the ride from Southold to Manhattan, which concluded May 18. The pinwheels represented the American lives lost each year to ALS, or Lou Gehrig’s disease. During the ceremony, Pendergast presented a check on behalf of the Ride for Life for $150,000 to Stony Brook University to support ALS research at Stony Brook Medicine and the Christopher Pendergast ALS Center of Excellence, the only ALS Association-certified center on Long Island.

Started in 1998 by Pendergast, the Ride for Life organization raises awareness and funds for ALS, a fatal neurodegenerative disease. The Ride has raised more than $4.5 million for ALS research since its inception. Each year Stony Brook receives a portion of the Ride’s proceeds to fund research.

Senior leadership from Stony Brook Medicine gave Pendergast a gift – a genuine Louisville Slugger baseball bat engraved with the words: “SBU and the Ride for Life ‘Strike out ALS’.” The gift symbolizes Pendergast’s advocacy, courage, endurance and vision in the cause to find a cure for ALS.

“We are determined to advance ALS research at Stony Brook,” said Kenneth Kaushansky, MD, Senior Vice President of the Health Sciences and Dean of the Stony Brook University School of Medicine. “This is a time when we are learning more about the science of ALS, as a disease and what biological and neurological processes are affected. These will be targets for better treatments, and ultimately a cure.”

“At Stony Brook we remain committed to caring for our ALS patients and their families, and we thank Chris Pendergast for his energy, vision, and all that he does for the ALS cause,” said Reuven Pasternak, Senior Vice President for Health Systems at Stony Brook Medicine and CEO of Stony Brook University Hospital.

“The Ride for Life is an inspiring event, and we at Stony Brook Medicine hope to contribute to finding a cure for ALS,” said Dennis Choi, MD, PhD, Professor and Chair, Department of Neurology, and Director of the Neurosciences Institute. “Toward this goal, we thank Chris for his generosity, leadership and incredible courage.”

Joining those honoring the Ride for Life effort was New York State Senator John J. Flanagan, whose daughter, Ashley Flanagan, sang “Wind Beneath My Wings” and a rendition of the song “Blowin in the Wind.”

“This is truly an honor to join the Stony Brook University community to recognize this inspiring effort,” said Senator Flanagan. “Thanks to the dedication of Chris Pendergast and the great scientific work being done at Stony Brook, we can all share in the hope that someday soon we will find a cure for this destructive disease that has affected so many of our family members and friends on Long Island.”

The Remembrance Ceremony included a tribute to patients lost to ALS. Ninety names were recited to mark the number of minutes between deaths from ALS in the United States. Family members received a balloon to be released in their loved ones honor. Amidst the pinwheel display and balloons gliding in the air, all listened to “Blowin in the Wind,” hearing words that echoed a cure for ALS is surely blowing in the wind.

To see photos from the Stony Brook Ride for Life Ceremony, view this flickr website.

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