CHARLOTTE, NC: On Thursday, the Joe Martin Foundation held its 3rd annual “Live Every Day” ALS fundraising banquet. When it was over, the ALS Fundraiser raised more than $131,000 in the battle against ALS. But there is more to this story than the money that was donated in the on-going war that former New York Yankees first baseman Lou Gehrig brought to the attention of the nation in the mid-1930’s. It also brought to mind the Importance of Family in our lives.
About more than ALS fundraising, this was also about family.
“Family” is defined in several ways, but my favorite is this;
“A social unit consisting of one or more adults together with the children they care for.”
Each individual has several families during the course of their lifetime. Naturally, there is, first and foremost, the family into which a person is born.
In my case, I also had my various baseball families.
Those families changed frequently, of course. From my youth in amateur baseball to high school and then, fortunately into the professional ranks. The strange thing is that it didn’t matter what the level of competition was. Regardless of the sport, there is always a bond where the discipline itself brings people together.
Dwight Clark, the great San Francisco 49er wide receiver and tight-end who recently died from ALS complications, only wanted to be with his former teammates one last time before he passed away. Why? Because they were family.
We have many families in our lives
My broadcast family from the days when I was a local sportscaster at the CBS affiliate in Charlotte, NC was a family. Different than the others, but a family no less.
My church family who brings food, sits with me so my wife can participate in the choir, sings at our softball fundraiser and sends regular greetings in support of my efforts.
And today, I have a new family; the ALS family comprised of loving, caring, giving people who fight daily to defeat a debilitating disease.
The speaker for the Thursday event was supposed to be Chris Combs, a former NC State baseball star who signed a professional contract with the Pittsburgh Pirates before he, too, was diagnosed with ALS. Combs has devotedly raised millions of dollars to fight the disease that robbed him of his dream career and potentially a good chunk of his life.
But the fund-raising was not for him. It was to aid and support others who would follow, future ALS family members.
At the last minute, Combs was unable to speak because ALS had taken his ability to talk loudly and clearly for the brief time he was supposed to be at the podium. In fact, Combs never arrived at the banquet due to complications from a cold which the physical demands of the 120-mile journey from Raleigh to Charlotte rendered impossible.
Stepping up for family in the fight against ALS with an annual ALS Fundraiser
So, who stepped to the dais? None other than NC State head baseball coach, Elliott Avent, Combs coach during his final years with the Wolfpack.
This was no chore for Avent. It was not a hardship. He did it gladly and willingly to support all of those suffering with ALS. He did it for the Importance of Family. The ALS family. The baseball family and the brotherhood of man.
Avent has taken his baseball team to the NCAA Tournament in 16 of his 21 seasons as head coach, capturing both ACC and National Coach of the Years honors in 2003.
With over 1,000 career victories, one of five active ACC coaches and one of only 15 NCAA Division I coaches to reach that mark, Avent’s team came within one game of advancing to the NCAA Super Regionals in 2017.
None of this was even mentioned on Thursday night, however, because the theme of the banquet was “Heroes Among Us” and Elliot Avent, like so many other “capeless crusaders” who fight on behalf of ALS patients, do not see themselves as heroes.
The Annual Joe Martin Banquet honors ALS heroes
As one who deals daily with ALS, the annual Joe Martin Banquet honored us as “heroes.” Personally, I cannot accept that honor or role. All I did was contract the disease. Anybody can do that.
It doesn’t take a hero to become a victim of something over which you have no control.
No, the true heroes are the caretakers, the wives, the husbands, the relatives, the friends and, of course, the families of those who are afflicted.
In the case of Joe Martin, he was truly a hero. Joe and wife Joan and brother Jim formed the foundation. A foundation that offers so much support and love for people like myself who are able to give so little back.
People like Amy Peacock, Neil Cottrell, Sarah Haydn, unknown names to most, but bigger than life personas for those of us who suffer, they are the true heroes.
People like Chris Combs and Elliott Avent who give of their time to bring a better quality of life to those whose lives are diminished by ALS, they are the heroes.
Family members who diligently drive, cook, listen to heartbreaking stories and who endlessly, tirelessly struggle on in silence. They give their own lives to make a better more comfortable future for ALS sufferers. They, too, are the real heroes.
ALS Awareness and Acceptance
Many who attended the banquet on Thursday discovered for the first time the true devastation ALS brings to a family. The key here is awareness. The money goes for research and aid, but knowing about the disease and how it gradually morphs once healthy people into someone who is no longer independent. Someone who feels broken…that, too, is critically important.
You see, what it really all boils down to is one simple concept; FAMILY.
About the Author:
Bob Taylor is a veteran writer who has traveled throughout the world. Taylor is an award-winning television producer/reporter/anchor before focusing on writing about international events, people, and cultures around the globe.
Taylor is the founder of The Magellan Travel Club (www.MagellanTravelClub.com)
Editors Note: Support Bob’s GoFundMe to give him a hand up