Friday, May 3, 2013

Get Involved in a Charitable Cause - ALS Awareness Month


Guest Blog post "Get Involved in a Charitable Cause" written by: Holly Bennett, Lehigh Valley ALS Volunteer.

The daily pressures of family and work often prohibit us from devoting time and effort to charitable causes.  There are just not enough hours in a day.  Often we are fortunate to be able to make a difference to a charity through the support of an employer.  Small and large businesses alike offer opportunities for employees to get involved in charitable organizations during business hours through toy drives, dress down days, golf outings, community walks, and other creative philanthropic initiatives.

Collaborating with charitable organizations provides significant benefits to business owners and executive managers.  For instance, raising money, collecting toys, and walking as a team provides a mechanism for team building, which resonates long after the charitable initiative.  Approved participation in charitable events gives employees a sense of pride in their employer.  In addition, employers often receive advertising benefits through signage and media coverage through their participation in a charitable cause.

I have seen the profound effect of local businesses; many of them chamber members, on charitable causes.  For the past eleven years I volunteered for the ALS Association and watched the participation of local businesses in the Lehigh Valley Walk to Defeat ALS® grow. Ultimately, the support of local businesses makes a direct impact on ALS patients in the Lehigh Valley. ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease occurs throughout the world with no racial, ethnic, or socioeconomic boundaries, typically striking men and women between the ages of 35 and 70. Over 5,000 Americans are diagnosed with ALS each year.  ALS is characterized by a degeneration of motor cells in the brain and spinal cord, leading to muscle weakness and, as the disease progresses, severe impairment of mobility, speech, swallowing, and respiratory function. In the advanced stages, ALS care can cost up to $250,000 a year. Average life expectancy, without invasive mechanical ventilation, is approximately two to five years from diagnosis.  ALS patients in the Lehigh Valley are our neighbors, co-workers, friends, and family and they need our help.

ALS is not a common disease, but when my grandmother was diagnosed with ALS in 2002, I knew there were others in the Lehigh Valley fighting the same battle.  I spear headed the first walk in the Lehigh Valley in 2003.  That year we raised approximately $40,000 with the help of local businesses and patient families.  Each year after 2003, the support of the community continued to grow.  Last year marked the tenth anniversary of the walk and we celebrated a milestone of a million dollars raised over the tenure of our event.

Lehigh Valley businesses can have a direct impact on community members who face significant life challenges.   If you are not already involved in a charity as a Lehigh Valley employer, investigate the local opportunities among non-profits in our community.  Participation is a win-win situation for your business and employees, as well as the people supported by the charity of your choice.  The eleventh annual Lehigh Valley Walk to Defeat ALS will take place at Coca Cola Park on Saturday, October 19, 2013.  

For more information about ways to involve your business with this event, contact Allison Walker, Events Director at allison@alsphiladelphia.org or 1-877-GEHRIG-1 (1-877-434-7441).

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