Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), commonly referred to as “Lou Gehrig’s disease,” is a fatal neurodegenerative disease that attacks motor neurons and can quickly lead to paralysis. Currently there is no cure for ALS and the pharmaceutical industry considers it to be an “orphan disease” as the afflicted population is too small for profitable investments in the research and development of new treatments. Last semester a member of NI, Avi Kremer, began treatment for ALS. That was all the incentive his section needed to come to the rescue.
“As soon as Avi came forward and told us he has a rare nerve disease, we decided right then we would do everything possible to help him beat it,” said Charlie Graham (NI). Last semester NI and Rabbi Hirschy Zarchi organized a prayer vigil for Avi in the HBS Chapel where Kristin Rutter (NI) gracefully played the harp and Josh Benaim (NI) blessed us with his vocal talent. However, simply hoping and praying the best for Avi was not enough as many people in the section began mobilizing fundraising ideas.
First, Becky Dalton (NI), Mallika Monteiro (NI), and Bianca Ling (NI) organized a “Spread the Love” Valentine’s Day campaign with the goal of raising school-wide awareness of ALS and $1,000 for research. Becky explained, “The plan was to sell roses and candy-grams so that people could send them to each other while also spreading the message of ALS.” The fundraiser blossomed into an amazing success.
On Valentine’s Day, students, professors, and staff were seen wearing red in a show of solidarity with Avi in defeating ALS. NI generated nearly $8,500 in sales and “The Love Squad” delivered over 1,300 bags of candy and roses, each labeled with a card explaining ALS, throughout HBS in just two days. Costs of goods sold were kept to a minimum through the generosity of the Student Association and the Brattle Square Florist. The final contribution from this effort alone to ALS research will be approximately $8,000.
In an attempt to keep the momentum going, NI has proposed several other initiatives. The section is planning to sponsor a TGIF in the Grille to raise additional money for ALS research. Through the assistance of their Section Chair, Senior Associate Dean Jan Hammond, NI is collecting some remarkable items to benefit ALS at their upcoming charity auction. Curt Schilling, pitcher for the 2004 World Champion Red Sox, and his wife Shonda have already donated a Curt Schilling autographed copy of the World Series Edition of Sports Illustrated. They are both active supporters of ALS research.
When Avi was asked what impact all of this has had on his life at HBS, he proclaimed, “My friends give me the emotional support, the positive thinking, and the confidence in a better tomorrow even when I am consumed by doubts and fears. I personally believe that their optimism and hard work will help find a cure. So many good wishes, deeds, and prayers couldn’t go unnoticed up there.”
Editor’s note: For Avi’s personal account of battling ALS, please see Viewpoints.