Its scientific name is “Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis,” but most folks know it as Lou Gehrig’s Disease.
Holme Circle resident Gary Beech, meanwhile, calls it something else. It’s a nightmare to him and his loved ones.
Doctors diagnosed Beech, a 43-year-old St. Bartholomew School and North Catholic graduate, with the progressive neurodegenerative disease in 2008, but his symptoms have been getting a lot worse lately. That’s mainly why his loved ones have organized a Jan. 12 fundraiser at the Townsend Room, 12273 Townsend Road.
The beef ‘n’ beer will help Beech’s family pay the mounting costs of his care, while also supporting awareness and research through the non-profit ALS Foundation. Tickets cost $40 and include dinner, beer, a live performance by the band Johnny Verbal Enablers and additional music by DJ Bobby Olmo, who also happens to be Beech’s best friend.
Tickets are limited to 300 and must be purchased by Jan. 7 by calling Stephanie Bennett at 215-888-3637.
“The horror of this disease is [that] it affects everything but your mind,” said Teresa Beech, Gary’s mom. “So you’re aware of everything that’s happening [to you] as it’s happening.”
As many as 30,000 Americans have ALS at any given time. The disease progresses differently in different people. In Beech’s case, doctors initially told him it would progress slowly.
“But I’d say in the last six to nine months, it’s really been progressing,” said Teresa Beech.
Gary is a divorced father of two. His son Drew, 21, is a senior at Penn State, and his daughter Breanna, 17, is a senior at Archbishop Wood High School in Warminster
Gary has lost much of the use of his legs and hands. He breathes with the help of a ventilator and has difficulty speaking, according to his mom. At home, the family renovated a bathroom and Gary’s living area to make them more accessible to him. When he leaves home, he must use a wheelchair.
“He gets out if someone takes him,” Teresa Beech said. “It’s up to family and friends. They’ve been coming pretty good to the house to see him.”
Despite his challenges, Gary Beech is heavily involved in ALS awareness and fundraising activities. In November, he took part in the Walk to Defeat ALS at Citizens Bank Park and raised $2,000.
“He tries to the best of his ability to bring awareness because a lot of people don’t know what it is,” Teresa Beech said.
The condition does not cause him constant pain, but there is no known treatment or cure for the symptoms. And while the disease commonly afflicts people between the ages of 40 and 70, researchers have yet to pinpoint a cause in Gary’s case.
“There’s no answer to that at all,” Teresa Beech said. ••
Reporter William Kenny can be reached at 215-354-3031 or firstname.lastname@example.org