Tuesday, May 7, 2013 12:00 AM
FLORENCE, Ky., May 7, 2013 – Turfway Park will welcome 1,000 to 1,200 of its Greater Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky neighbors to the Florence, Ky. racetrack on May 18 for the third annual Northern Kentucky Walk to Defeat ALS, or amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, a motor neuron disease often called Lou Gehrig's disease.
The walk is hosted by the Kentucky chapter of the ALS Association, one of 45 chapters nationwide that work to fund research, patient care, and family and caregiver support.
Registration and a silent auction begin at 8:30 a.m. A ribbon-cutting ceremony and the one-mile walk begin at 10 a.m. The walk will begin at Turfway's paddock and progress around the grounds. Because wheelchairs cannot easily maneuver on Turfway's Polytrack surface, the route will not include the track itself.
"We keep the distance to a mile so patients can also participate, most of them using walkers or wheelchairs,” said Jennifer Lepa, administrative project coordinator for the ALS Association's Kentucky chapter in Villa Hills. "In our first year we drew between 300 and 400 walkers and raised about $36,000. In 2012, we essentially doubled that, with nearly 800 walkers raising more than $70,000. This year our goal is to raise $80,000 through the efforts of at least 1,000 walkers."
Walkers can register online or call (800) 406-7702. Companies and walkers are encouraged to form teams, and walkers also can join an existing team or participate as individuals. All walkers who raise $75 or more will receive an official Walk to Defeat ALS tee-shirt.
Besides opening its facility to the walkers, Turfway will send its own team to the event as part of the track's HERO initiative, an employee-based volunteer program in place at all Caesars Entertainment properties. Turfway adopted the HERO program in July 2012.
ALS is a progressive neurodegenerative disease that attacks cells in the brain and spinal cord, affecting control of voluntary motor function. The ability to walk, talk, swallow, and even breathe progressively deteriorates, and in the later stages most patients become paralyzed. The mind and memory are not affected by the disease. The rate of progression varies, but life expectancy after diagnosis averages two to five years. ALS occurs throughout the world and crosses all racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic boundaries. Ninety percent of cases have no known genetic component; about 10 percent appear to be hereditary. Servicemen and –women are two to three times more likely to be stricken. No cure or treatment exists to halt or reverse ALS, although the lone FDA-approved drug, Riluzole, modestly slows progression. Several other drugs are currently in clinical trial, and research is ongoing.
Kentucky also is home to the Kentucky Neurosciences Institute at the University of Kentucky in Lexington, one of only 33 ALS Association Certified Centers nationwide. The centers offer highly specialized care across multiple disciplines for patients and their families.
"We are fortunate to have a certified center," said Lepa. "Moving ALS patients and their equipment can be difficult and exhausting. At the center, patients and their families can make one trip to one appointment and see an entire medical and support team instead of struggling to get to different appointments in different locations on different days. The UK center regularly sees patients from surrounding states as well as from Kentucky."
The Northern Kentucky Walk to Defeat ALS is sponsored locally by Zalla Companies, LaRosa's, Heaven Hill Distilleries, and Taylor Mill Skyline Chili as well as by Turfway.
Turfway Park is located at 7500 Turfway Road in Florence, I-75 at Exit 182. Parking is free. Participants should park in marked areas only.