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June brings about another ALS awareness month

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Markham, ON, June 6, 2011 – Once again June rolls around and with it brings ALS awareness month. Throughout the month people across Canada raise awareness for ALS, raise funds and don the blue cornflower – the national emblem of ALS Canada.

Why a blue cornflower? The blue cornflower is the ALS Canada emblem because, despite its fragile appearance, it is a hardy wildflower found throughout the country. Like the cornflower, people living with ALS show remarkable strength in coping with a devastating disease. Like the cornflower, awareness of ALS and funding for care and a cure is growing across Canada.

In 1990, Health Canada and Welfare Canada approached the ALS Society of Canada indicating that they were interested in declaring one month ALS awareness month. As Lou Gehrig, the Yankee’s first baseman who famously had ALS (also named Lou Gehrig’s disease), retired from baseball and also died in June, June served as the perfect month. Furthermore, the solstice – June 21 – is widely recognized as the turning point, which is very symbolic for ALS Canada, as there is the hope that one day a cure for ALS will be found.

Kinga Njilas – an inspirational young woman who created the soccer tournament “Cup 4 a Cure” in honour of her mother, Erika (this year’s fundraising tournament will be held on June 19 in Guelph at the Guelph Lake Sports Fields), created a web site detailing her experiences living with someone living with ALS, created a Facebook page enabling people affected by ALS to lend support to one-another and continuously raises awareness for ALS – is an example of someone who truly embodies the spirit of awareness month, throughout the year.

Njilas also played a large role in engaging youth with parents living with ALS and was instrumental in the development of a national peer-support program. In recognition for all her hard work Njilas received the June Callwood Award from the Ontario government on April 15, 2011, and the Leader of Tomorrow award from ALS Canada in 2010, as well as winning the 2010 Mike and Ike’s Ante Up! contest. Njilas continues raising awareness for ALS throughout her many endeavours.

Her mother, Erika, was diagnosed with ALS when Njilas was 21 years old. She is Njilas’ inspiration for what keeps her continuously fighting for ALS Canada.

“My mom lost her battle with ALS after a long four-year fight on January 29th, 2010. A piece of my heart went with her, but in her memory I will continue to do all I can to raise funds and awareness,” says Njilas. “Until the day when no one suffers the heartache of losing someone they love to ALS, I will continue fighting.”

ALS Canada’s signature event, the WALK for ALS, largely takes place throughout the month of June as well. All throughout Canada people are canvassing for donations, walking to support ALS Canada and are raising awareness for ALS as they go.

ALS, more commonly known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, is a rapidly progressive and fatal neuromuscular disease that causes the degeneration of nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord. As the nerve cells die, people with ALS lose control of their muscles, which makes breathing, eating, and even smiling almost impossible. Eighty per cent of those diagnosed will die within two to five years.

The ALS Society of Canada, founded in 1977, is the only national voluntary health organization dedicated solely to the fight against ALS and support for those living with ALS. The Society funds research towards a cure for ALS and supports our provincial partners in the provision of quality care for those living with ALS.

To find out how you can become involved, please visit www.walkforals.ca

To find out more about ALS, please visit www.als.ca

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For more information, please contact:

Bobbi Greenberg
Director of Communications
ALS Society of Canada
1-800-267-4257 ext: 208
bg@als.ca