Second Fundraiser Speech 06/08/03

Speech 6/8/03


I have a number OF PEOPLE to thank tonight on behalf of myself and the matt white cure als foundation.


Thanks to our event co-chairwomen for tonight.  two of my best friends, my mentors, AND TWO women i’ve been through a lot with -Christine woodward-duncan, and Donna dwyer-pitz.  Thanks Jeff smulyan, Robin rene and Norm gurwitz for offering the building and Emmis for sponsoring.  Also our other sponsor the Finish Line.  All those who worked on committees and as volunteers to put this event together, including the foundation’s board- j chapman, steve sanner, ben ponzio, and board president cliff mazzone.  i especially want to thank 1 committee member, kathi moore who went above and beyond to make this night a success. 


A very special thank you to everyone who is here.  Your attendance and participation in support of the Matt White Cure ALS Foundation is absolutely necessary if we’re to find a cure for ALS.


and of course my mom and dad, howard and connie white.  and the rest of my family who traveled so far to get here.


Let me give you a brief description of what ALS is and what it does.  This being the year of Lou Gehrig’s 100th birthday, and since most have seen the movie of Lou’s life “Pride of the Yankees”, I’ll share what happened to him.


Lou Gehrig was born June 19, 1903.  at 21 he joined the major league new york yankees for the 1925 season.  He played first base and batted fourth behind Babe Ruth.  Gehrig is most well remembered for playing in 2130 consecutive games, which may have  overshadowed his .300+ batting average and 147 RBI average for 12 straight seasons. 


The 1938 season- his 13th in the majors- was the first and only year that Lou Gehrig’s batting average dropped below 300. 


It was clear that something was wrong, lou gehrig was getting weaker.  He went through spring training and started at first base for the first 8 games of the yankees 1939 season.  Following the first inning of the seasons 8th game, Gehrig removed himself from the game.  The date was may 9, 1939- game #2130, and his last.


by june 19 of that year lou gehrig knew what was wrong- he stood outside the mayo clinic with an envelope that detailed his diagnosis- amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. 


A very rare neuromuscular disease for which there was no cause, no treatment, and no cure.  along with the news that there was no hope, The report concluded that GEHRIG Was done as a baseball player


two years later, july 1941, lou gehrig died in his home.


Here’s what’s happened to me.  just like gehrig, i was In the middle of a fine professional career having just been promoted to gsm at q101 in chicago.  my golf game, after many years of consistent improvement, had dramatically deteriorated.  after years of enjoying running for fun and exercise, and after 9 straight mini-marathons, running became just so exhausting that i could barely shower and dress after a workout. 


eventually i heard the same words Lou gehrig had heard 60 years earlier.  You have als.  Your voluntary muscles will gradually atrophy until your diaphragm stops working and you can no longer breathe.    We don’t know the cause, and have no cure or effective treatments.  Chances are you’ll live 3 or 4 more years.


I’m not real sure what Lou did after he heard those words, other than make an eloquent and now famous speech in Yankee Stadium.  I DO KNOW THAT They told him there was no hope, and they were right- 60 years ago there was no hope. 


Almost 2 years ago in Chicago I told many of you what I’d do with my final years.  Then as now the question is not why me, but to what end?  My end was to spend time with family and friends doing the things that I loved, to walk more closely with god, and to raise awareness and money to find a cure for ALS.   I’m doing great on the first two with some help from my friends.  now I’m asking for everyone’s help on the third- to help fund groundbreaking research so that someday there will be a cure.

Today, just like in gehrig’s time there is still no known cause, cure or treatment for als.  there is however hope that a cure or effective treatment for als may not be too far off.  only $29 million went to als research from the u.s. government funded “national institutes 0f health”.  but, thanks to hundreds of private charitable fundraisers like this, the best possible research is BEING CONDUCTED and positive results are being achieved.  if this research is to CONTINUE, funding must come from these private foundations and from fundraisers like this. 

At this time the most cutting edge ALS research is being conducted at the ALS Research Center of the Fineberg School of Medicine at Northwestern University, and at the Robert Packard Center for ALS Research at Johns Hopkins.  The funds raised tonight will go almost entirely to these two worthy organizations. 

At Northwestern, Dr. Teepu Siddique is credited for discovering the first two genes responsible for the familial form of ALS.  His research continues to center around the genetic causes that contribute to contracting ALS. 

At Johns Hopkins, Dr. Jeff Rothstein led a team of researchers in utilizing the first gene,discovered by Dr. Siddique in 1989, to create an ALS type disease in mice. Dr. Rothstein and his team now use these mice for drug testing, therapy testing, stem cell research and more.

that these two, and several other doctors and research teams  have devoted their careers to finding a cure for als is a huge improvement over 60 years ago.  that they’ve found things to work on, and have had some success, moves als research out of the dark ages.  it’s reason to believe that some day a cure or treatment will be found.  it’s a reason to hope that did not exist for GEHRIG, WHICH EXISTS FOR ME TODAY, and a hope that will only grow for als patients who follow.

now, before i wrap up, i want to update you on some last minute donations we’ve received for tonights silent auction.  we didn’t have time to include these items in the program-

it looks like a bunch of things these people won’t need,

in the hollywood category -winona ryder has donated her sak’s fifth avenue credit card

some nice pieces of sports memorabilia sent down from chicago- the cubs have donated several dozen sammy sosa bats that they didn’t want anymore.

we’ve got something here if YOU’RE interested in cosmetic surgery—a local plastic surgeon donated a box of signed blank prescription pads that he no longer needs.

here’s a nice donation from two emmis guys, gary thoe and tom severino-  they’ve donated  what’s listed here as a “giant annoying moose hand puppet”  i wondere where they got that?

all kidding aside- we have some unbelievable items available.  make sure you see it all.  When it’s time to make a bid, don’t think of it as a purchase, but a donation.  a charity auction like this is great-  make a tax deductible donation, and get something you really want in return!  what a deal!

a month ago i attended the foundation fundraiser of a friend of mine, an als patient named bob baston.  his 16 year old daughter spoke at the event.  she brought the room to tears relating how her hero, her mentor, her father, had told her he was dying of a disease for which there was no known cause, cure, or treatment.  . 

i sat listening to her, a 16 year old girl, talk of the inevitable, imminent death of her father.  it sounded a lot like the conversation i had 3 years ago with my parents.  and it was awful. 

please join me in working for a day when no 16 year old daughter has to hear there’s no hope for her parent, and no parents have to hear there’s no hope for their 33 year old son. 

please give generously.  this event will make a difference.

and please, have fun tonight. 

thank you.


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