Telethon raises $145,000 for ALS foundation

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A Tuesday night telethon raised $145,680 for a foundation started by an O’Hara man diagnosed with Lou Gehrig’s disease.

"It was a remarkable evening," Neil Alexander said.

Mr. Alexander, a 48-year-old husband and father of two, was diagnosed in June 2011 with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, better known as ALS or Lou Gehrig’s disease, after the Yankee ball player who died from it.

Decades after Gehrig’s death, it continues to be a disease with no cure and no effective treatment. ALS attacks the motor neurons, and usually results in paralysis and difficulty breathing and swallowing. The average patient dies two to five years after diagnosis.

After his diagnosis, Mr. Alexander and his wife, Suzanne, created The donor-advised fund of The Pittsburgh Foundation launched in March 2012.

Mr. Alexander, in an interview today, recalled that’s original goal was to raise $40,000 to increase awareness of ALS, provide care to ALS families and support research into a cure. has far exceeded that goal. To date, Mr. Alexander said, the fund has raised more than $750,000, parts of which have gone to support care of patients with ALS in Western Pennsylvania, toward a grant program and a college scholarship program for children of people with ALS and to the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine for ALS research.

The most recent donations to came Tuesday night, when the Alexanders were featured on a WTAE-TV program marking the 75th anniversary of Gehrig’s farewell speech as a Yankee after his diagnosis. A telethon held in conjunction with the program brought in $145,680 through 569 donations to the Alexanders’ fund, he said.

"It was a great, great evening, and once again Neil’s tremendous courage and commitment to this cause shone through," said John Ellis, vice president for communications at The Pittsburgh Foundation.

Mr. Alexander said the donations will allow to continue its work, particularly efforts to fund research into disease.

"We now believe that we can continue to make significant inroads into the research route, which is the most costly project to fund," he said.

Kaitlynn Riely: or 412-263-1707.

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