In 1993, doctors told him he had two or three years to live. Twenty-six years later, ALS-fighter Chris Pendergast, Sc.D., continues to defy the odds.
This month, he led the 22nd annual ALS Ride for Life, raising awareness and money to help find a cure for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, a progressive, fatal neuromuscular disease that affects voluntary muscles. The 12-day, approximately 100-mile journey across Long Island and New York City began May 6 in eastern Long Island and ended May 18 on the Manhattan side of the Brooklyn Bridge.
After meeting Pendergast in the fall, students from SJC Long Island and SJC Brooklyn teamed up with him during ALS Awareness Month. SJC Long Island students joined Pendergast and his team May 7, walking from the campus to South Ocean Ave. Middle School in Patchogue. Pendergast met students at SJC Brooklyn May 18, and from there they crossed the Brooklyn Bridge.
Why We Walk for ALS
“We walk to show that, as a community, we’re all supporting this cause to find a cure,” said first-time walker Jonathan DiMaria ’20.
Since Pendergast founded Ride for Life in 1997, the nonprofit organization has raised more than $8 million for research and patient care on Long Island.
There are a lot of benefits that go beyond just students raising awareness and money.”
–Gail Lamberta, Ph.D.
“I met Chris back in the fall, and he’s just incredibly inspirational,” senior Rosanna Lubrano said through tears. “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.”
The College has been supporting the ALS Ride for Life for about 20 years. While Professor and Chair of Recreation and Leisure Studies Gail Lamberta, Ph.D., and the Recreation Clubs at SJC Brooklyn and SJC Long Island sponsor the fall events during which Pendergast visits the campuses, raising the funds and walking together in May is a College-wide initiative.
“It’s important that students start to understand the challenges that go beyond their own lives and learn to support different organizations,” Dr. Lamberta said. “The College’s mission really aligns with what we’re doing in terms of providing that support. Raising awareness is critical.
“(Chris) encourages our students,” Dr. Lamberta continued. “Kids today face a lot of challenges very different than years ago. It’s all about perseverance, hope, believing in your faith and believing in other people, and he conveys this message to the students. There are a lot of benefits that go beyond just students raising awareness and money.”