Summer of Thanks
Gary Kurtis: Grandpas Team
After losing his father to ALS in 2002, Gary Kurtis knew that from that day on he was going to do whatever he could to support finding a cure for the deadly disease. While he lived in Maryland, this fight took the form of participating in the Fiesta 5K to support the work at Johns Hopkins University.
“It was extremely well attended, very popular and successful, brought in a lot of money but most importantly a lot of recognition,” said Mr. Kurtis.
Participating in the race was not enough for Mr. Kurtis. He wanted to start a race of his own, however, he didn’t anticipate just how difficult it would be. He reached out to local organizations without success at first. “They told me we don’t have the resources or the money."
Despite the letdown, Mr. Kurtis refused to just give up. He was too determined in his effort to raise awareness for a disease that affected him and many others around the world. He was persistent because he made “a decision that I wanted to dedicate my resources and time to ALS”.
“I was really disappointed. Here I am trying to see if we could get a race and create all the benefits it does, something I’ve been trying to do since my dad passed away, but it was hard finding the resources.”
Finally, last fall he got the response that he was waiting for. He attended a walk for the ALS Hope Foundation and was able to talk to some members of the team. He was impressed by their dedication and passion and decided to pitch his idea one more time. He explained his goals for the event and requested assistance in setting it up. The ALS Hope Foundation was had previously hosted a run and was very interested in his proposition. Let the meetings begin!
The weekly meetings were aimed at coordinating everyone’s efforts and working out the more difficult logistics of such a large event. As with every event, there were glitches along the way. When one member of the ALS Hope Foundation team left to pursue other interests, Mr. Kurtis was momentarily nervous that he would once again be back to square one, however, he soon realized that ALS hope was just as committed as he was. We were looking for someone like Mr. Kurtis as much as he was looking for us!
“Jamey Piggott from the ALS Hope Foundation took over and we developed a very good close working relationship and the rest was history,” said Kurtis.
Not content to just sit on the sidelines for the actual event, Kurtis also reached out to friends and family via Facebook to start a team of his own for the run. In a nod to the demographics of the team, Kurtis and his supporters decided to call themselves “Grandpa’s Team.”
Still, what stood out to Kurtis wasn’t the success of his own team, but the success of another team, Pierson Powerhouse, which generated over $5000.00 thanks to their incredible fundraising. Despite having ALS, Michael Pierson was in attendance for the race with many of his family members. “This Michael Pierson was great he has ALS and still was able to participate in the race” remarked Kurtis. He feels that the Pierson story is a great example of why having this race is so important. “The race brings together people who have been impacted by ALS and connects them with the ALS Hope Foundation to help ensure they get the help they need.”
The race, which took place on June 2, was an incredible success. Kurtis was even surprised by the turnout. Not only did hundreds of people show up for the race, but people were genuinely enthusiastic and excited to participate. “The response was incredible. All along we thought we might get 200 people, but I didn’t think it was going to happen. In the end, we ended up having 250 people!”
The attendance wasn’t the only factor from the race that shocked Kurtis. The money that was generated from the race left him in awe. “We wanted to raise $5,000 but we ended up raising $22,000, which is just incredible!”
Kurtis was relieved that the race was able to actually happen after his repeated tries and with the first year a clear success, he has no plans to stop any time soon. He plans to continue the Run for Hope knows this is the start of a strong partnership. “I told Jamey before the race that once the race is over, I don't want it like the sports team won the championship and it's that year-long break where everyone just celebrates. I don't want this to be the end, but the beginning of my involvement to help out the ALS Hope Foundation.”
Now, Kurtis has a lot of optimism for the future. Despite all the success this race brought, Kurtis wants the next race to be even more successful. “My vision is that we have this race in place and the only downside is that we didn’t have a lot of sponsors but that's because this was a brand-new race. Hopefully, it helps that we’re all ready and established now and more sponsors will jump in. Hopefully, we'll build on this and get more and more exposure and educate the community to help those that are affected and reach a cure for this.”
With the determination of people such as Gary Kurtis, we are one step closer to trying to find a cure for the disease.