The ALS Association

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Stephanie Dufner
The ALS Association
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The ALS Association Pays Tribute to Southern Californians Battling Lou Gehrig's Disease at Annual Heroes Luncheon

San Diego, Calif. (February 4, 2014) — The ALS Association and its Greater San Diego and Orange County Chapters will honor two extraordinary individuals living with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) on Friday, February 7, during the 4th Annual Luncheon for Heroes Living with ALS.

ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease, is a progressive neurodegenerative disease that affects nerve cells in the brain and the spinal cord. Eventually, people with ALS lose the ability to initiate and control muscle movement, which often leads to total paralysis and death within two to five years of diagnosis. For unknown reasons, veterans are twice as likely to develop ALS as the general population. There is no cure, and only one drug approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) modestly extends survival.

The event is the highpoint of The Association’s annual Leadership Summit where the organization’s Trustees and members of the Board of Representatives convene with chapter employees and National Office staff. The luncheon recognizes people living with ALS who have made “an indelible impact on The ALS Association and the community-at-large.” Those honored at the event have inspired the ALS community as they have promoted awareness of Lou Gehrig’s Disease and have sought to improve the lives of those with ALS.

This year’s honorees are Inez Coffman, of Chula Vista, Calif., and Tom Masters of Anaheim, Calif. Coffman and Masters have respectively worked with the Greater San Diego Chapter and Orange County Chapter participating in local activities, including support group meetings, holiday get-togethers, and The Association’s largest fundraising event, The Walk to Defeat ALS™.

Coffman, an artist who works at Walter N. Coffman Foam Shapes (WNC), was diagnosed with the disease in 2004. She continues to flourish in her craft, even though ALS has affected her dexterity. “I still paint, but it takes me twice as long because I have to use two hands instead of one,” says Coffman. She utilizes her left hand to guide her right one when she designs murals for WNC and creates other art works.

“Inez represents courage, openness and good faith,” says Tom Courtney, Executive Director, Greater San Diego Chapter. “She gets out of bed every day fighting this disease.”

Coffman also fights ALS by working with the chapter, interacting with other individuals with Lou Gehrig’s Disease. Every December, she hosts a luncheon for chapter employees and San Diegans who have ALS and attends a monthly patient support group the chapter runs. Her Walk team “Step Up with Inez” has raised more than $67,000 in the last nine years.

Like his fellow Southern Californian, Tom Masters leads a Walk team, “The Masters of ALS,” which has raised more than $39,700 during the past five years for the Orange County Chapter. He and his wife Heidi attend patient support groups in Orange County, and Masters has spread ALS awareness through starring in a “Text to Give” campaign aimed at raising funds for ALS research.

Masters’ participation in the 2011 Los Angeles Marathon additionally served as a vehicle to raise awareness of the disease. With assistance from others with ALS, friends and family, Masters completed the 26 mile footrace in five-and-a-half hours in rainy weather. On the back of his wheelchair, he attached a metal banner that highlighted the chapter’s logo and read, “Racing for a Treatment & a Cure.” Masters refers to the event as “one of the most amazing experiences that I have participated in.”

Such actions – coupled with Masters’ zest for life and his refusal to let the disease impede him – inspire chapter staff and board members. “Tom Masters does not consider himself a hero, but he has HOPE, and Tom brings HOPE to our entire organization,” said Orange County Chapter Executive Director Jared Mullins.

“Both Tom’s and Inez’ stories illustrate why The ALS Association remains committed to our mission,” says Jane H. Gilbert, President & CEO of The ALS Association. “Their selflessness in helping others living with the disease and willingness to spread ALS awareness to their communities provides motivation to all of us at The Association to continue our work to find a treatment and a cure.”

About The ALS Association
The ALS Association is the only national non-profit organization fighting Lou Gehrig’s Disease on every front.  By leading the way in global research, providing assistance for people with ALS through a nationwide network of chapters, coordinating multidisciplinary care through certified clinical care centers, and fostering government partnerships, The Association builds hope and enhances quality of life while aggressively searching for new treatments and a cure.  For more information about The ALS Association, visit our website.

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