CHELSEA – The lingering pandemic means Chelsea Jewish Lifecare’s Leonard Florence Center for Living’s major fundraiser will step off virtually for the second year in a row.
The 13th annual ALS & MS Walk for Living on Sunday, Oct. 17, aims to raise $100,000 this year, though in years past, when the walk was held in person, it generated as much $150,000. The walk has raised more than $2 million over the past 13 years for resident care and activities.
The walk is important because every dollar raised goes directly toward patient care and programming for those living with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis and multiple sclerosis at the Leonard Florence Center, which it says cares for more people with ALS than anywhere else in the world.
For residents who become immobilized due to the rare progressive neurodegenerative disease for which there is no cure, they can still control lights, turn on the TV, or call for an elevator with the aid of a computer and sensor that tracks head and eye movements to get instructions. This allows them to move independently throughout the residence, improving their quality of life.
Despite Leonard Florence’s high-level of care, the pandemic created stumbling blocks for these residents in the form of increased isolation because of limited family visits and fewer group activities to prevent the spread of the coronavirus among this especially vulnerable population.
“The pandemic has been extremely stressful for everyone in our skilled nursing residences, most especially those individuals living with ALS and MS,” said Barry Berman, CEO of Chelsea Jewish Lifecare. “In addition to the extreme isolation of these residents, COVID has resulted in tremendous financial strain. This is why our efforts to raise funds from this year’s Walk for Living are so important to our residents.”
Walk Director Maura Graham said the cost of care for ALS residents is “sky-high.” The walk, she said, was fortunate to raise $100,000 last year despite being held virtually, and while that is the goal again this year, so far, the fundraising has gotten off to a slow start.
Before the pandemic, people took part in a two-mile walk from Leonard Florence on Admiral Hill in Chelsea. Having the start at the nursing home allowed residents with ALS and MS to participate. The walk would loop around the neighborhood and finish back at the center with food, music, entertainment and kids’ activities. More than 1,000 people would participate.
The Leonard Florence Center has 30 residences dedicated to those with ALS and MS. In December, Leonard Florence opened the Stein Family Center for Well-Being, with 20 rooms for residents who are ventilator dependent, many of whom are also diagnosed with ALS.
Graham said fundraising needs this year are more urgent than ever. In non-COVID times, the money raised has gone to activities like going out to the movies, dinners and even skydiving.
“There’s all sorts of things we’ve been able to give our residents as a result of the walk and the money that it generates,” Graham said.
Graham said they are encouraging participants to take part on the intended walk date of Sunday, Oct. 17, but they can also walk, run, jog, bike or take to the treadmill to do the two miles whenever they can. Graham said she plans to walk two miles around her neighborhood that day.
“Next year, we’ll be back bigger and better than ever, but in the meantime this year, [we are] virtually asking people to participate.”
To register for the 2021 ALS & MS Walk for Living, go to walkforliving.org. All donations are tax deductible.