Family Joins Together to Pay Tribute to Tomas P. Sanchez at the Les Turner ALS Foundation’s 10th Annual Walk4Life in Chicago
On September 10, 2011, the family of Tomas P. Sanchez will join approximately 5,000 people at the Les Turner ALS Foundation’s 10th Annual ALS Walk4Life. The family will walk as “Team Tamo” in memory of Tomas who passed away from ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease) in August of 2009. “Team Tamo” will include nearly 50 people representing the Quad Cities, the Chicago area, Texas and Kansas. As the largest gathering of the local ALS community, the ALS Walk4Life is a celebration of hope, courage and caring. The event features a 2+ mile walk along Chicago’s lakefront, beginning at Montrose Harbor. Emceed by meteorologist Phil Schwarz of ABC 7, the event will include live music by Beatles tribute band American English, entertainment, food and children’s activities, as well as autographs by former Chicago Bears tackle Keith Van Horne and author Jonathan Eig.
“Our father was a courageous man who experienced many health challenges in the final years of his life,” explained Dominga Mercado of East Moline. “These challenges forced him to see many doctors and endure endless tests. Our father hated to burden others and wanted to cope with his health quietly, but when ALS began to affect his body, we needed to be there for him every day.”
Tomas’ path to an ALS diagnosis was a long one that became complicated by the development of other illnesses. A hard working family man who emigrated from Mexico to the Quad Cities, Tomas had been healthy until he was diagnosed with asthma in 2006. An inhaler helped minimize his symptoms, but he was gradually noticing that tasks requiring even minimal effort left him breathless, which doctors later suggested might have been a sign that ALS had begun to impact his body. Shortly after the asthma was discovered, Tomas was diagnosed with prostate cancer and then experienced a heart attack. While recovering from the heart attack, Tomas and his wife were in a car accident, struck by a drunk driver. Then in late 2007, while in the hospital for what he thought might be a second heart attack, he lapsed into a coma and when he eventually regained consciousness he underwent numerous tests to determine what was happening to his declining body. It was at this time that specialists diagnosed Tomas with ALS.
The family had never heard of ALS and began diligently researching the disease and consulting healthcare professionals. Dominga, her mother and her siblings all helped care for Tomas as his health continued to decline. Tomas became dependent on a BiPap machine to help him breathe and toward the end of his life he began to lose strength in his hands and he needed assistance with daily tasks, such as eating.
“Team Tamo” has been actively fundraising for the Les Turner ALS Foundation in Tomas’ memory. Spearheaded by Tomas’ grandchildren Sergio Mercado,Jr., of LaGrange and Christine Sanchez of Dekalb, the team has found creative ways to raise money; they have already collected more than $7,000 and donations continue to come in. Tomas’ son Rick Sanchez, a soccer coach at Moline High School, along with Jennifer Sanchez, held a soccer tournament with entry fees benefiting the Les Turner ALS Foundation and recently the family hosted an Enchilada Night featuring a raffle of several gift baskets. In June, “Team Tamo” was recognized by the Foundation as the top fundraising team of all groups participating in the upcoming ALS Walk4Life.
In its nine-year history, the ALS Walk4Life has collectively raised nearly $6.5 million. Individuals are provided with fundraising tools and some teams hold events and approach businesses for support.
“The ALS Walk4Life is an opportunity for patients and families to gather with other people who know firsthand what it’s like when ALS touches their lives,” said Wendy Abrams, executive director of the Les Turner ALS Foundation. “The event confirms that finding a cure for ALS is of the utmost importance and the community united behind this cause is strong and committed.”
ALS Walk4Life partners include: ABC7 Chicago, THE MIX 101.9FM, Abt, American Chartered Bank, B&B Catering, The Private Bank, Lettuce Entertain You, Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine and Simply Natural.
10 Year Anniversary
The Les Turner ALS Foundation is celebrating the 10th anniversary of the ALS Walk4Life by adding several new elements and activities to the event:
Team Recognition – Nearly 20 teams have participated in the ALS Walk4Life since its inception; these groups will be honored on-site for their dedication to the cause.
Arts4ALS Program – The Foundation is collecting artwork from anyone who has been touched by ALS. The art will be on display at the Walk in a special Arts4ALS tent.
Tribute Wall – Walk participants will be able to write, draw or share something about the person they are honoring at the event.
Registration is free, but participants who raise a minimum of $100 will receive a long sleeved ALS Walk4Life T-shirt. Registration will open at 9:30 a.m. and ALS Walk4Life emcee Phil Schwarz will lead the Opening Ceremony at 10:30 a.m. The walk will begin at 11:00 a.m. Participants are encouraged to pre-register for the event at www.alswalk4life.org.
Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), commonly known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, attacks a person’s muscles, gradually robbing them of their ability to walk, speak, eat and breathe. The clinical progression can vary widely; however, most people with ALS live two to five years after the onset of symptoms. While some symptoms are treatable, there is currently no prevention or cure.
Les Turner ALS Foundation
Founded in 1977, today the Les Turner ALS Foundation is the only independent, publicly supported non-profit organization in Chicagoland dedicated solely to treating and eliminating ALS. The Foundation is affiliated with Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine where it funds both a clinical care program and two scientific research laboratories. The Les Turner ALS Foundation serves more than 90 percent of the ALS population in the Chicago area.
For more information about ALS, call 847-679-3311 or visit www.lesturnerals.org.