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An evening to celebrate Champions for Cures and Care

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January 19, Los Angeles

It was a truly wonderful evening dedicated to conquering ALS at the Champions for Cures and Care celebration on Friday, January 19. The elegant gala event, held at the Hilton Los Angeles Airport, was filled with live music by Carlos Calvo and Friends. ALS supporters from all over the country turned out in their finest to raise funds and pay tribute to those who have made a tremendous impact to the ALS community with the organization’s annual Essey Award presentations.

The Essey Awards are the organization’s highest honors, named for one of the founding board members, Richard (Dick) Essey, and presented to esteemed members of the community for outstanding efforts in the areas of ALS research, philanthropy, and public awareness.

The dedicated event committee, led by Bryan Deierling, Event Chair and Advisory Trustee, included Kathleen Rasmussen, Honorary Co-Chair and former Board Chair, Lorraine Barth, Linda Della, Rebecca Silver Fisher, Susan Morris, Ronald Ruma, Patricia Schimbor, and Karen Sutton. This esteemed group left no detail unfulfilled and were able to gather many special items for the event’s silent and live auctions. Even the evening’s auctioneer, Emmy award-winner Liam Mayclem (KCBS’ “The Foodie Chap”) arranged U2 concert tickets for two at the Sphere in Las Vegas. Mayclem was joined on the auction floor by special guest, Sisanie, Co-Host on 102.7 KIISFM Los Angeles’ On Air With Ryan Seacrest.

Event Chair and Advisory Trustee Bryan Deierling, spoke with the guests, “It’s my fourth year chairing this event, and I’m thrilled to see how it has continued to grow because of all of you. Thank you for being here or for watching on our livestream!”  The audience was then treated to a short film that celebrated the highlights from our 2023 community outreach events.

Chief Operating Officer Sheri Strahl then made an important announcement of the organization’s new name and brand

“We chose this night intentionally – because you are the reason our organization can accomplish so much for our ALS community.
You are the reason our network of care, research, and advocacy continues to be one of the most impactful and meaningful in the nation. And, my friends, we have only just begun. Tonight, together, we launch … the ALS Network!”

Sheri Strahl, MPH, MBA

The 2024 Essey Spotlight Award was presented to award-winning actor and singer Aaron Lazar. Since he was diagnosed with ALS in 2022, Aaron has become a champion of others in the ALS community through his efforts to raise ALS awareness and support.

“During the most challenging time of his life, Aaron has ascended to a new mindset – embracing each day with hope, fortitude, and sharing his story, his ALS journey, with all who will listen,” said Sheri Strahl. “He is undoubtedly a role model, truly beloved and championed by his family and friends.

“The ALS diagnosis was a turning point for me. I made a decision that – for whatever life I have left – I am not going to live it afraid. Somehow in the darkness, I found courage. The two years since have been the most transformative of my life.”

Aaron Lazar

Then Aaron captivated the audience with a performance of an excerpt of a song and story from “The Impossible Dream.” Inspired by the award-winning song of the same name from the 1965 Broadway musical “Man of La Mancha,” the piece is a reflection of his personal journey of healing in the face of his ALS diagnosis. Champions guests were enchanted by his performance and gave Aaron a standing ovation mid performance, and remained standing until his final note.

The 2024 Essey Lifetime Achievement Award was presented to Fred Fisher, MSW, LCSW, for his extraordinary tenacity and leadership in the ALS community. For more than 20 years, Fred served as President & CEO of the Golden West Chapter, and grew the organization to be one of the largest ALS care organizations in the US.

The award presentation was led by the event’s Honorary Co-Chair and former Board Chair, Kathleen Rasmussen, who shared, ”Fred has demonstrated unparalleled dedication, vision, and an unwavering commitment to ALS care, cutting-edge research, and public policy over the span of two decades. His impact has left an indelible mark on the lives of countless people with ALS, their families, and friends – and it will continue to do so for years to come.”

“Those living with ALS are at the core of who we are and what we do. When it comes to ‘lifetime achievements’ it is the ALS community who can point to us and say, ‘I dedicated my life to the mission of this organization, and look at what I made possible.”

Fred Fisher, MSW, LCSW

Finally, California State Representative Diane Dixon took the stage to present a special resolution from the California Legislature to Fred.

“I had the pleasure of working closely with Fred Fisher when I was on the Greater Los Angeles Board. I’m proud to have worked with him and his team over the past year, as I authored AB511 –  the California ALS Research Network Voluntary Tax Contribution Fund, allowing Californians filing their State income taxes to donate to fund ALS research.”

Representative Dixon

The evening’s celebration was drawn to a close with a special video tribute to the 14th annual California ALS Research Summit. At the Summit, more than 200 researchers, clinicians, academics, and ALS advocates from around the world convened alongside representatives of biotech, government agencies, industry partners, and other organizations. ALS Network Leadership took a moment to acknowledge the commitment of Dr. Richard Smith of the Center for Neurologic Studies. He is an ALS Network Advisory Trustee, a founding member of our Industry Partner Consortium, and a contributing member of the California ALS Research Network. This year, Dr. Smith has pledged a significant contribution of capital to the ALS Network to help launch a global research program aimed at funding the most promising science in the search for effective prevention strategies, treatments, and cures for sporadic ALS.

Proceeds from this event will provide funding for the ALS Network’s mission-critical priorities in care services, public policy, and cutting-edge global research toward prevention strategies, treatments and cures for ALS. To view more photos from this event, please visit our Flickr album. To make a gift in support of the mission and vision of the ALS Network, please visit www.ALSChampions.org.

California ALS Network Gala

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