Raising money for research is one way to fight back against incurable diseases. That's what 245 participants did Feb. 9 in a Spin-a-Thon to support Pete Zucker, 47, who was diagnosed about four years ago with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, also known as ALS, or Lou Gehrig's Disease.
Like Lou Gehrig (1903-1941), the famous New York Yankees first baseman, Pete contracted the disease while still in his prime -- a competitive cyclist who could ride from the base of Mount Diablo to the summit in less than an hour. A former triathlete, he was used to physical challenges, exercised five to six days a week and led a completely healthy lifestyle, said his wife, Monica Mazzoco Zucker.
"Almost four years ago, Pete had a twitch in his left arm," she said in an email to me. "It continued 24/7. Pete was sent to a neurologist and had many tests. He was eventually sent to UCSF, where after a year of eliminating mimicking diseases, Pete was diagnosed with ALS."
ALS is a progressive neurodegenerative disease that leads to paralysis and death and has no known cure. Forward Motion Race Club raised just over $15,055 at the recent Spin-a-Thon. A portion of the funds will go to the Pete Zucker Foundation in support of the ALS Therapy Development Institute in Cambridge, Mass., for research to find treatments for ALS.
"It was a great turnout, and Pete was able to come but only for a few minutes," Monica said, "but enough for people to see what this awful disease does. Although Pete always manages to put a smile on his face, as he did when he saw all of those people riding."
Pete was a member of the Forward Motion Race Club, competing in triathlons, and the Wells Fargo Cycling team, now Kovarus/Wells Fargo Cycling, as a cycle road racer. Monica and Pete met in college through the triathlon club at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. They have two sons, Ryan, 16, and Zachary, 13.
"They have had to watch their dad go from an elite athlete, to a man who has difficulty taking in every breath," Monica said. "Pete, once an extremely fit, healthy human being, can no longer eat, speak or use any voluntary muscles. He is confined to a wheelchair and is 100 percent dependent on others for everything. He communicates with his eyes."
The newly formed Danville Bike/Kovarus cycling club is having a kickoff cycling event, "For Pete's Sake," on April 14 to raise awareness and support the fight against ALS. The Danville Bike website at www.danvillebikes.com or the Pete Zucker Foundation, www.PeteZuckerFoundation.org, offers more information on how to join the club.
"The community has been extremely supportive through this difficult time," said Monica. "Many have reached out to us and helped in any way they could. Pete has always had an incredibly dry sense of humor, which he continues to prove every day. Pete finds joy in every minute he spends with his family and friends. He has handled this all with grace, strength and is an inspiration to all who meet him. Pete is my hero, and I and many others aspire to have the same poise and strength he portrays every day."
Since Pete was diagnosed, more than $100,000 has been raised in five Spin-a-Thons to accelerate research for the disease. "The donations have, in part, helped ALS TDI move forward projects and partnerships with the goal of halting or curing the disease, including those like the company's Phase II clinical trial of Gilenya in ALS to be launched in 2013," said Mari Sullivan, public relations manager of ALS Therapy Development Institute.
"ALS is not incurable, it is underfunded," Monica said. To make a donation to fight ALS, go to www.petezuckerfoundation.org, or send a check to 15 Headland Court, Danville, CA 94506.
Contact Georgia Lambert at around- email@example.com.