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Adams Leads Walk to Defeat ALS

by Joey Sykes / Pittsburgh Penguins

Penguins forward Craig Adams and his family were among the 3,000 people who converged at Point State Park in downtown Pittsburgh on Saturday afternoon to participate in the 22nd annual Walk to Defeat ALS.

The event is held each year to raise money and awareness to combat amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease. According to Merrit Spier, the Executive Director of the ALS Association’s Western Pa. chapter, it has raised over $635,000 in donations so far.

For the second straight year, Adams co-chaired the event with his wife Anne, whose father Paul Cellucci – the former-governor of Massachusetts and U.S. ambassador to Canada – passed away after battling ALS last year at 65 years old. Adams said that he is proud of how the ALS Association handles the event each fall.

“The ALS Association of Western Pennsylvania does a great job,” Adams said. “They do all the organizing and we have a great venue here at Point Park. There’s over 3,000 walkers today, which is a record here at the Pittsburgh walk and in terms of funds raised, it looks like it’s going to be another record.”

The Adams family has had a lot of support from everyone within the Penguins organization, especially this summer thanks to the “Ice Bucket Challenge,” a viral movement that exploded last month.

It involves people getting doused with buckets of ice water on video, posting that video to social media, then nominating others to do the same – all in an effort to raise awareness for ALS. Those who refuse to take the challenge within 24 hours are asked to make a donation to the ALS charity of their choice (though many did both).

The Adams family initiated the Pens’ involvement in the movement, challenging assistant GM Bill Guerin, Sidney Crosby and Chris Kunitz. All three accepted, nominated others within the organization and it exploded from there. Even Penguins owner and legend Mario Lemieux participated.

And it worked. On Aug. 29, the ALS Association topped $100 million in donations from people who were moved to action by theIce Bucket Challenge. That’s compared to $2.8 million during the same time period last year (July 29 to August 29).

“[The support] is great,” Adams said. “The Ice Bucket Challenge was sort of a phenomenon that took off, but has really been beneficial for ALS – not only for awareness, but for raising money. It’s been well supported by the Penguins, whether it’s the organization, the coaches, or the players. They’ve always been really helpful in supporting ALS whether it’s coming out to events like this or donating money. We’re pretty lucky.”

Kunitz was in attendance at the walk with his wife and children. He agreed with his fellow teammate about how much of an effect things like the walk and the Ice Bucket Challenge have had on raising money to fight ALS.

“There’s a lot of great people that support this year after year and for the turnout and the great day, it’s special for everybody,” Kunitz said. “I think our whole family wrapped their arms around [the Ice Bucket Challenge] and picked different people to pass it on to, and it’s done a great job creating awareness.”

Creating awareness is something Craig and Anne have been working tirelessly at.

“They really ramped up their participation with us at the Walk to Defeat ALS as co-chairs for two years and now co-chairs of the corporate walk committee,” Spier said. “I think they have a really good time here too, and everybody feels very close to him because of the connection with ALS. They’re just sincerely wonderful, gracious people and it’s been so much fun to work with them.”

Barbara Newhouse, the President and CEO of the ALS Association, had kind words to say about the Adams family as well.

“They have been super to work with,” Newhouse said. “They have been so supportive of the ALS Association and they understand we have a fight that lasts from the time someone is diagnosed to the end and beyond until we find a cure. They’re great.”

The Walk to Defeat ALS takes place in cities across America, but the inaugural walk started in Pittsburgh in 1982. Since 2000, the ALS Association has raised over $200,000,000 according to their website and has over 94,000 registered walkers.

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