When he fell during a pickup basketball game, his teammates teased him about being a “middle-aged jock.” When the resulting limp didn't go away, when it became worse, when the foot drop developed, the teasing stopped and the long ordeal began. He had fallen in the process of developing a devastating neurological illness which would forever sideline him from basketball, the game he was most passionate about.
Ernie Wallengren learned he had ALS.
In 2003, he lost his battle with the disease.
In the years that followed, Ernie Wallengren’s friends and family have gathered each May for the E.F. Wallengren Hoopfest, a charity basketball tournament that raises funds for the E.F. Wallengren Fund for ALS Research at The ALS Association.
“The Hoopfest is our opportunity to celebrate Ernie’s life and passion, and help raise funds to find treatments and a cure for ALS,” shared Claire Peterson, Ernie’s mother. “We want to help ensure that other families don’t have to endure the pain we faced when we lost Ernie to ALS.”
The Hoopfest, underwritten through a grant from the Ralphs grocery chain, is held at Calabasas High School in Calabasas, California, the local school where Ernie served as a basketball coach for many years. Each year, more than 400 people attend the Hoopfest, including gifted amateur basketball players from across Southern California and the Western United States.
“We are grateful to Ernie Wallengren’s friends and family, including his mother, Claire, and his wife, Cheryl, for their steadfast support and dedication to The ALS Association,” said Jane Gilbert, President and CEO of The ALS Association. “In partnership, I am confident we will achieve Ernie’s dream of a cure for ALS.”