Fifteen years. More than $20,000 donated. Countless steps taken, tears shed and smiles shared.
St. Joseph’s College is celebrating ALS Awareness Month this May while looking back at all the ways the SJC community has helped to make a difference in the world of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis — more familiarly known as ALS — since 2006.
Through annual fall visits on campus from the late ALS-fighter Chris Pendergast, Sc.D., to joining each May in the ALS Ride for Life event, many members of the College community have been inspired by this journey to raise awareness and funds for a cure for ALS, a progressive, fatal neuromuscular disease that affects voluntary muscles.
“During his visits to campus to speak to students, Chris would use himself as an example of no matter how difficult your situation can be, it is always best to be a part of the solution rather than part of the problem,” said Gail Lamberta, Ph.D., associate dean, and professor and chair of recreation studies, who, along with the Recreation Clubs at SJC Long Island and SJC Brooklyn, spearheaded the College’s participation in the annual events.
“His kindness, deep desire to help others and words of encouragement through his many presentations at both of our campuses, have had a profound effect on the SJC community and resonated with all who participated over the years,” Dr. Lamberta added.
Becoming Part of the Ride for Life Journey
After being diagnosed with ALS in 1993 and being told he only had two or three years to live, Pendergast decided to create the ALS Ride for Life in 1997, inspired by the fact that he defied the odds.
Thus began the 12-day, approximately 100-mile journey across Long Island and New York City, which begins in eastern Long Island and ends on the Manhattan side of the Brooklyn Bridge. To this day, these events have helped raise more than $10 million for research and patient care on Long Island.
St. Joseph’s College students, faculty and staff joined Pendergast yearly, with members of the SJC Long Island community walking from the campus to South Ocean Ave. Middle School in Patchogue, then Pendergast meeting with participants at SJC Brooklyn, where they would they continue on across the Brooklyn Bridge.
And although involvement and fundraising for the event started as a connection with the recreation studies majors and the Recreation Club at SJC Long Island, it quickly grew, with students, faculty and staff from different disciplines and both campuses becoming involved.
“Our own students, alumni, faculty and staff have had loved ones whom have been effected and succumbed to this horrible disease,” Dr. Lamberta said. “They recognize the importance of raising awareness and funds to find a cure and provide support to those who have been diagnosed with ALS, and continue to fight the effects of the disease.”
Pendergast mentioned St. Joseph’s College’s involvement in the Ride for Life events in his book “Blink Spoken Here: Tales from a Journey to Within,” which was published last May and tells the story of his struggles and strength.
Why We Walk for ALS
Over the years, St. Joseph’s College students have shared what inspired them to join in the fight against ALS.
“We walk to show that, as a community, we’re all supporting this cause to find a cure,” first-time walker Jonathan DiMaria ’21 said in 2019.
Alumna Rosanna Lubrano was moved to tears when she met Chris back in the fall of 2018. After that, she knew she had to get involved.
“He’s just incredibly inspirational,” Lubrano said through tears during her 2019 involvement in ALS Ride for Life event. “He can motivate anybody, forget about just college students. It’s unbelievable. The person that he is, is why he’s defied every odd pertaining to this disease.”
Although the annual in-person Ride for Life event is not taking place this May as part of ALS Awareness Month due to the pandemic, members of the SJC community got together virtually in March, raising $300 for the cause.
Looking at Past Involvement
In honor of ALS Awareness Month, scroll through the photos below to take a look at SJC’s involvement in the ALS Ride for Life events over the years.