Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine

Giving

Les Turner ALS Foundation Honors Northwestern Medicine at Annual Gala, Raises More Than $617,000

Ken Hoffman, Dr. Robert Kalb, Andrea Pauls Backman, Morton Schapiro, and Eric G. Neilson, MD, Lewis Landsberg Dean and vice president for Medical Affairs at Feinberg.

The Les Turner ALS Foundation, a 30+ year philanthropic partner of Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, held its annual “Hope Through Caring” Gala on February 24 at the Loews Hotel Chicago. This year’s sold-out event of more than 500 people raised more than $617,000 to support the Foundation’s mission to fund and advance scientific research in amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), or Lou Gehrig’s disease, and provide care for those who suffer from ALS, their families, and their caregivers.

“ALS is a particularly complex and unforgiving disease and, as a result, research is very expensive, clinical costs continue to rise, and the need for support for people living with ALS is at an all-time high,” said Andrea Pauls Backman, chief executive officer of the Les Turner ALS Foundation. “All of the money we raise here tonight provides life-enhancing care for people living with ALS, and it will fund world-class research at the Les Turner ALS Center at Northwestern Medicine.” Ms. Pauls Backman went on to share that 100 percent of the event’s proceeds would go directly to the Center.

This year’s “Hope Through Caring” award shed a special light on the partnership between the Les Turner ALS Foundation and Northwestern Medicine as it was presented to the Les Turner ALS Center at Northwestern Medicine. Northwestern University President Morton Schapiro shared remarks in honor of this momentous occasion.

“Northwestern’s research mission is what gets me out of bed every morning, and I’m so proud of the work we’re doing in ALS,” said President Schapiro. “Imagine how proud we’ll be when scientists at Northwestern make the agony of ALS a distant memory, studied by historians instead of doctors.”

Robert G. Kalb, MD, inaugural director of the Les Turner ALS Center, accepted the “Hope Through Caring” award, asking all faculty and staff of the Center in attendance to stand and be recognized.

Ken Hoffman, Dr. Robert Kalb, and Andrea Pauls Backman

“We have learned so much about ALS over the past 25 years, and scientists at Northwestern have played and will continue to play a leading role in these efforts,” said Dr. Kalb. “A cure can and will be found.”

Dr. Kalb joined Northwestern in December 2017 and serves as chief of the Division of Neuromuscular Medicine and professor of Neurology. His research focuses on the abnormal molecular processes in ALS.

“The Les Turner ALS Center continually offers hope by working to support and push for new research that can lead to more treatment options and, one day soon, a cure,” said Patti Greer, who spoke to attendees about her experience living with ALS. “The Center’s existence and availability to me as a person living with ALS allows me to do just that—live with ALS, knowing that this team is pulling for all of us.”

During the evening’s video presentation, gala attendees met Darryl Carradine, another individual living with ALS. After over a decade of misdiagnoses, Mr. Carradine continued to search for answers, and ultimately found them at the Les Turner ALS Center. 

Click here to watch the video and learn more about Darryl Carradine’s story.

“Through the guidance of Dr. Kalb and the collaborative efforts of all of the faculty and staff at the Center, we are more optimistic than ever before,” said Ken Hoffman, board chair of the Les Turner ALS Foundation. “The discoveries needed to uncover the cause of and cure for ALS will take place in our lifetimes.”

Working Together in Service of Patients

The Les Turner ALS Foundation is named for Les Turner, who was diagnosed with ALS in 1976, an era when little was understood about the disease and patient resources were nearly nonexistent. In 1977, Mr. Turner, along with close family and friends, formed the Foundation, proclaiming that no one should have to go through ALS alone. Since then, the Les Turner ALS Foundation has been Chicagoland’s leader in research, patient services, and education about ALS.

Click here to learn more about the Les Turner ALS Foundation.

The storied history between the Les Turner ALS Foundation and Northwestern Medicine dates back to 1979 when the Les Turner ALS Foundation established the first Les Turner ALS Research Laboratory. In 1986, the relationship was further cemented when the Foundation opened the Lois Insolia ALS Clinic, one of the nation’s first multidisciplinary ALS clinics.

Throughout its longstanding relationship with Northwestern Medicine, the Foundation has funded more than $30 million in research and clinical care. Additional programming offered by the Foundation includes in-home consultations to people living with ALS by a team of nurses and social workers, support groups, equipment loans, patient service grants, and educational activities.

In 2014, the Foundation made a leadership commitment of $10 million to help establish the Les Turner ALS Center at Northwestern Medicine. The Center offers an extraordinary opportunity to enhance today’s care and propel scientific knowledge that can lead to future treatments for ALS. The Foundation continues to partner with Northwestern to raise $10 million to endow the Center in perpetuity.

“The Les Turner ALS Foundation has made possible hard-hitting breakthroughs in ALS research, including the discovery of the first ALS gene,” said Dr. Kalb. “The establishment of the Les Turner ALS Center at Northwestern Medicine opens new doors for collaboration both within our institution and across the country and world.”

To learn more about supporting the Les Turner ALS Center at Northwestern Medicine, please contact Lauren Pedi at lauren.pedi@northwestern.edu or 312-503-4635, or click here to make your gift online.

“Northwestern’s research mission is what gets me out of bed every morning, and I’m so proud of the work we’re doing in ALS. Imagine how proud we’ll be when scientists at Northwestern make the agony of ALS a distant memory, studied by historians instead of doctors.”

- Morton Schapiro