Northeast Times

Benefit set for Holme Circle man

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 wkenny@bsmphilly.com

You can reach at wkenny@bsmphilly.com.

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