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June 22, 2003

Blagojevich honors baseball great Lou Gehrig, Signs ALS income tax check-off bill

CHICAGO – Gov. Rod R. Blagojevich today honored the late baseball legend Lou Gehrig, who would have turned 100 this week, by signing into law legislation adding a donation check-off for the Les Turner ALS Foundation to Illinois income tax forms.

Gehrig died at age 37 from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS, also called "Lou Gehrig's Disease").  Before his premature death, Gehrig set the record for most grand slams at 23, and – until being surpassed by Cal Ripken, Jr. in 1995 – also held the record for most consecutive games played at 2,130.

"I love the game of baseball and follow its heroes closely.  Lou Gehrig was certainly one of the greatest baseball heroes, and American heroes, of all time.  His untimely death back in 1941 brought worldwide attention to a disease that we still don't fully understand," said Blagojevich.  "More than 25 years later, a businessman from our community – Les Turner – was diagnosed with the same disease.  He turned his energy and attention in his last days to setting up a foundation to aid future victims of ALS and their families.  I'm honored to recognize both of these heroes today as I sign the ALS research tax check-off into law."

Senate Bill 1044 adds a check-off box to Illinois 1040 income tax forms allowing taxpayers to donate a portion or all of their returns to the Les Turner ALS Foundation.

The Foundation is the largest independent, publicly-supported, non-profit ALS organization in the nation, serving 625 patients annually through support groups, genetic counseling, communication and equipment banks, and speech pathology and occupational therapy. 

Most of the funds generated from the tax check-off in Illinois will be used to support the Les Turner ALS Research Laboratory at Northwestern University's Feinberg School of Medicine.  The research program is led by Dr. Teepu Siddique, who is known worldwide for discovering two genetic causes of ALS.

"We've been building momentum for more than 25 years as we research causes and treatments for ALS," said Wendy Abrams, executive director of the Les Turner ALS Foundation.  "This additional funding will get us closer to our ultimate goal – wiping out this destructive disease."

ALS is a terminal, neurodegenerative disease that attacks nerve cells and pathways in the brain and spinal cord.  When the cells die, patients lose voluntary muscle control and movement.  Patients in the later stages of the disease are totally paralyzed, even though their minds usually remain sharp and alert.

Although treatments are available for many symptoms of ALS, there is no cure.

For more information about ALS, visit www.lesturnerals.org.


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