“Once in a while – once in a great while – you meet someone about whom you can say, ‘My life is better for the meeting.’ That’s how I feel about Jim Eutizzi. That’s how many people feel about Jim.”
These words, which Milwaukee journalist Brad Hicks noted in his letter nominating his fellow Wisconsinite for the Lawrence A. Rand Prize, reveal a brief yet astute glimpse into the magnanimous character of this year’s award recipient.
The Rand Prize “recognizes the courage, passion, integrity and commitment of those serving the ALS community as volunteers, healthcare professionals, educators/communicators or in other ways contributing to the quality of life of people living with ALS.” Eutizzi’s unflagging determination to spread ALS awareness to his fellow citizens in the Badger State and his willingness to help others with the disease exemplify the reasons he is being honored with the esteemed Prize.
Eutizzi, a retired salesman who lives in Waukesha, Wis., with his four children and wife Susan, was diagnosed with Lou Gehrig’s Disease in 2007 at the age of 44. Since receiving his diagnosis, he has spoken to middle and high school students in his home state about ALS in the hope that education will lead to compassion. He has also discussed the effects the disease has had on him by speaking at civic organizations’ meetings and events and has appeared on radio and television to promote ALS awareness.
“Jim’s Journey with ALS,” Eutizzi’s blog, provides its readers with insight into the everyday challenges of coping with a debilitating disease as well as the common questions parents ask themselves. Eutizzi infuses his posts with honesty, vulnerability and depth.
In her nomination letter endorsing him for the Rand Prize, Wisconsin Chapter Executive Director Melanie Roach-Bekos cites Eutizzi’s warmth, optimism and humor, which “serve to inspire and comfort.” “Rather than dwell on the limitations the disease has imposed, Jim chose to use his energy and enthusiasm to raise awareness and improve the quality of life for anyone affected by ALS,” she said.
Eutizzi has worked closely with the Wisconsin Chapter, including serving as a planning committee member for Walk to Defeat ALS® events. He has participated in the chapter’s Evening of Hope black tie fundraiser, where he served as keynote speaker and special guest. For the 2013 gala, he interviewed retired football player Steve Gleason, who has lived with ALS since 2011, and Gleason’s wife Michel via Skype. In addition, Eutizzi played an instrumental role in creating “Chasin’ A Cure,” an annual Milwaukee Brewers baseball tailgate that connects Lou Gehrig’s legacy with the continuous search for a cure for the disease.
“Jim Eutizzi embodies the true spirit of the Rand Prize,” said Kimberly Maginnis, Chief Care Services Officer. “He has lived with Lou Gehrig’s Disease for six years, yet he remains dedicated to spreading awareness and enriching the lives of others with ALS.”
The ALS Association established the Prize in honor of Lawrence A. Rand, a founding Trustee and a former National Chairman of the Board of Trustees of The Association. Rand has tirelessly advocated on behalf of people and their families living with ALS. The disease has personally impacted him as it took the lives of his father-in-law, sister-in-law, and wife, Madelon.
Past recipients of the Rand Prize include Shonda Schilling, the wife of onetime Boston Red Sox pitcher Curt Schilling; NFL player Pete Duranko; and the internationally renowned neurologist Dr. Richard Olney, who died from ALS in 2012. The Association will present the award to Eutizzi during the 2014 Leadership Summit & Winter Walk Forum in San Diego.