Skip to main content

Les Turner ALS Foundation Raises $700,000 for ALS Care and Research at Annual Gala

Dr. Merit Cudkowicz of Harvard Medical School and Mass General Hospital accepts the Harvey and Bonny Gaffen Advancements in ALS Award

April 15, 2024

The 36th Annual Hope Through Caring Gala, hosted April 13 by the Les Turner ALS Foundation, raised more than $700,000 to accelerate the Foundation’s mission to provide care and support to people living with the disease.

More than 450 people attended the gala, held at the Radisson Blu Aqua Hotel in Chicago and streamed online.

ALS, or amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, is a progressive and fatal neurodegenerative disease with an average survival rate of three years. There are an estimated 350,000 cases of ALS worldwide, and the symptoms and progression of the disease can vary greatly by person. The degeneration of neurons leads to muscle weakness and impaired speaking, swallowing, and breathing, eventually causing paralysis and death.

For more than 40 years, the Les Turner ALS Center at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine has partnered with the Les Turner ALS Foundation to advance ALS research and provide life-enhancing treatment and services to those living with ALS.

The gala followed a promising year for research and drug development. In 2023, the US Food and Drug Administration approved tofersen (now QALSODY), the first-ever treatment for a genetic, or inherited, form of ALS. The gene it targets, SOD-1, was co-discovered at the Les Turner ALS Center and is the first-ever genetic mutation linked to cause ALS. Clinical trials for the treatment were held at the Lois Insolia ALS Clinic housed within the center.

“This is an evening of hope,” said Laura Freveletti, chief executive officer for the Foundation. “As we gather together, united in determination and purpose, I am full of hope about the opportunities that lie ahead of us. We can lead collaborations, advance research, and reach more people affected by ALS than ever before.”

Honoring ALS's Fiercest Fighters

In addition to providing a forum to celebrate scientific advancements and fundraise for future breakthroughs, the Hope Through Caring Gala also honored the work of ALS advocates and supporters.

Merit Cudkowicz, MD, MSc, head of the Department of Neurology and Julieanne Dorn Professor of Neurology at Harvard Medical School and chair of Neurology Service at Mass General Hospital, was awarded the Harvey and Bonny Gaffen Advancements in ALS Award for her pioneering research in the field. Senda Ajroud-Driss, MD, ’01 MD, ’05 GMEF, the Les Turner ALS Foundation and Herbert C. Wenske Professor  of Neurology at Feinberg, presented the award to Dr. Cudkowicz.

"Dr. Cudkowicz is an outstanding role model for all of us working in clinical research," said Dr. Ajroud-Driss, who serves as director of the Lois Insolia ALS Clinic. "Her drive and dedication to ALS research have transformed the field and led to innovative clinical trial design and to the discovery to new ALS therapies."

Dr. Cudkowicz is one of the founders and former co-director of the Northeast ALS Consortium (NEALS), a group of more than 150 clinical sites around the world dedicated to performing collaborative academic-led clinical trials and research studies in ALS. She also serves as principal investigator of the Clinical Coordination Center for the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke's Neurology Network of Excellence in Clinical Trials (NeuroNEXT). With her colleagues at Mass General and NEALS, she leads the first ALS platform trial initiative to accelerate therapy development.

Anne Lidsky, ’79 PhD, a beloved support group facilitator of more than 40 years, was awarded the Hope Through Caring Award. She was introduced by Bonny Gaffen, sister-in-law of Les Turner and a co-founder of the Foundation, and Joel Schechter, vice chair and board member of the Foundation.

Dr. Lidsky was a teenager when her mother was diagnosed with ALS, and she became her mother’s primary caregiver. Driven by her experience, she dedicated her life to providing support, compassion, and guidance to families affected by ALS.

Dr. Senda Ajroud-Driss (back, center) and gala attendees

Also in attendance from Feinberg were Robert G. Kalb, MD, director of the Les Turner ALS Center at Northwestern Medicine and the Joan and Paul Rubschlager Professor in the Ken & Ruth Davee Department of Neurology; Hande Ozdinler, PhD, associate professor of Neurology; Evangelos Kiskinis, PhD, associate professor of Neurology; Jonathan R. Brent, MD, '17 GMER, '19 GMEF, PhD, assistant professor of Neurology;  David M. Gate, PhD, assistant professor of Neurology; Lisa F. Wolfe, MD, '04 PhD, professor of Neurology and of Medicine; John M. Coleman III, MD, associate professor of Neurology and of Medicine; Colin K. Franz, MD, '17 GMER, '18 GMEF, PhD, assistant professor of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation and Neurology; and Richard B. Silverman, PhD, professor of Pharmacology.

The Les Turner ALS Foundation partnered with Northwestern’s Les Turner ALS Center to open the first ALS research laboratory in 1979. Since then, the Foundation has contributed more than $32 million to Feinberg, and it continues to partner with the medical school to raise $10 million to endow the center in perpetuity.

For more information about supporting the Les Turner ALS Center, please contact Andrew Christopherson at or 312-503-3080.

Make a gift to support ALS research


Members of the Lois Insolia ALS Clinic at the Les Turner ALS Center at Northwestern Medicine