“You name it, I’ve pretty much done it”—Appreciating Volunteer Diana Wunning for Volunteer Appreciation Month

Over her years as a volunteer with the ALS Association St. Louis Regional Chapter, Diana Wunning has seen—and done—just about everything. She’s been volunteering long enough to remember the days when mailings were all done in-house and by hand. She recalls sorting postal tray after postal tray of envelopes by ZIP code. She recalls VERY early mornings at the Walk to Defeat ALS when she’d be out putting up signs to direct people to the right spot. Pretty much anything that needed to done, Diana has done it some point along the way. In fact, she recalls not just volunteering, but managing other volunteers.

“In the years before we had a volunteer coordinator I’d be there very early and help oversee the volunteers and make sure everyone was where they needed to be day of Walk,” she says. “You name it, I’ve pretty much done it.”

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ALS Advocacy Efforts Roll On

We all know those tasks that are never done. There is always more laundry to do, same with the dishes. And sure, the lawn mowing takes a break for the colder months, but come spring the grass will be growing again. Which is not to say that all tasks that are never done are necessarily unpleasant. Taking the dog for a walk can be enjoyable for both human and canine. Pulling weeds from the garden has a certain Zen attraction for many.

ALS advocates had reason to celebrate in December 2021 with the passage and signing into law of the Accelerating Access to Critical Therapies (ACT) for ALS Act, but there has been no time to wait as 2022 moves along with many policy priorities still on the table. For ALS advocates, there is always more to do.

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Finding a Way—A Look Back at 2021

In a lot of ways, 2021 has been a roller coaster ride. For many in the ALS community and beyond, the year began on a hopeful note with COVID vaccines becoming more and more available. For a few weeks in early summer, it looked like the pandemic might be behind us. But as summer rolled on and eventually turned to fall the word “variant” entered our vocabulary is a big way, and as we near the end of December we find ourselves back in a world of uncertainty.

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“I chose to use my situation as motivation…”—Pattie Hamlin Honored with ALS Association Hero Award

Like many people, Pattie Hamlin took part in the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge in 2014. And like many people, she did it in support of the cause but without a deep connection to the disease. But that all changed just a few years later.

Pattie Hamlin was diagnosed with ALS in 2016, but she did not let that slow her down.

“Shortly after being diagnosed I began researching and discovered how devastating this disease really is,” Pattie says. “In those early months I struggled emotionally with the outlook that was now my reality. Eventually, I chose to use my situation as motivation to try and make a difference for the future of ALS.”

For her tireless efforts in support of our Chapter and the ALS Association as an ALS advocate, fundraiser, and ambassador, Pattie was honored with the Hero Award virtually during the ALS Association 2021 Leadership Conference in February.

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The Fight Never Stops—ALS Advocates Push for Increased Funding from 117th Congress

Even with all the headline-grabbing stories that dominate cable news and your news feed, much of what happens in the federal government follows a predictable pattern. This seemingly mundane work of setting priorities, planning budgets, and allocating funds doesn’t tend to excite many journalists unless something goes awry, but when all is said and done this process determines how most of your tax dollars get spend, and on what.

And so it is with the annual appropriations process that provides funding for key government programs. While other flashy topics attract more attention, the ALS Association and our network of ALS advocates are working to protect and expand federal funding for ALS research and fighting for public policies that will accelerate the search for treatments, and a cure. Just this week, a “Dear Colleague” letter has begun circulating in the U.S. House of Representatives, asking members to signal their support for the funding requested in the fight against ALS.

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What a Year It Has Been

There is no doubt, 2020 will be a year not soon forgotten. We all have had our lives turned upside down in ways big and small, and we are all hoping for 2021 to turn things right-side up.

And while 2020 has been for many a year we’d be fine forgetting, there has been much worth remembering for our Chapter and the ALS community. For while 2020 has been a struggle, we are inspired by those who have struggled to overcome the obstacles in the path. And we are reminded that for people with ALS the struggle never ends. ALS does not stop for global pandemics, or for the challenges created by them.

Like so many others, when the scope of the COVID-19 pandemic became clear, our Chapter was forced to reimagine how to provide services to the community we serve. Our Care Service team worked with our partners to find new and different ways to meet the needs of people with ALS. Visits that would normally have been in person now took place over the phone or internet. Here on ALS Connect, we tried to keep you informed about how we and others in our community we meeting these challenges each and every day.

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More Encouraging News about AMX0035—And Still time to Sign the Petition to Make this Promising Treatment Available as Quickly as Possible

In September, we shared with you the exciting news that AMX0035, a trial ALS treatment drug developed by Amylyx Pharmaceuticals that had just completed the phase 2 trial, showed a statistically significant benefit to people living with ALS. This promising news lead The ALS Association and I AM ALS to launch a petition asking the FDA and Amylyx to work together to make AMX0035 available to the ALS community as soon as possible.

And while the news of a possible significant benefit to people living with ALS has created much optimism in the ALS community, the story doesn’t end there. All patients who completed the Phase 2 study were eligible to enroll in an “open label extension” (OLE) study to receive AMX0035 with no placebo comparator for up to an additional 30 months. Out of the 98 participants who were eligible for OLE enrollment, 92 percent (or 90 participants), opted to enter the OLE.

The primary goal of an OLE is to gather information about safety and tolerability of the new drug in long term, day to day use outside the trial environment, but they also can and do provide information on the effectiveness of the drug being tested. In this case, those findings make an even more compelling case for providing AMX0035 to the ALS community while Phase 3 trials take place, not after.

Continue reading More Encouraging News about AMX0035—And Still time to Sign the Petition to Make this Promising Treatment Available as Quickly as Possible

Bringing About Real Change Step-by-Step: What it Means to Be an ALS Advocate

With the 2020 election looming, it seems every other ad highlights a different elected official in either a positive or negative light. But when we look beyond the talking points that dominate our screens, we often find that elected officials at the federal, state, and local level are not only open to, but eager to hear the thoughts of the constituents they are elected by. By becoming an ALS advocate today, you can make your thoughts known to your elected leaders and advocate for changes in laws and regulations that affect thousands of people living with ALS and their families.

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ALS Virtual Town Hall Brings Community Together

In a lot of ways, the origins of the “town hall” meeting are uniquely American. Sure, community gatherings have been happening from the time there have been communities to gather, but since the early days of colonial America, the gathering of a group of concerned individuals to be updated on current events has been a time honored tradition that persists to this day across the country. The idea has become so much a part of us that we don’t think twice that “town hall” can easily refer as much to a meeting as it does to a building.

But just because the town hall concept is old doesn’t mean it has stayed the same, and in 2020 when nothing seems normal the concept has had to evolve even more. What might have in the past been in-person gatherings have become virtual, expanding the scope and reach even further. But the basic idea of gathering a community to be updated on current events remains.

In just such spirit, our Chapter hosted a virtual town hall meeting in September to discuss the current state of ALS care services, research, and advocacy. Members of our community were able to hear from experts in these areas and ask question to the speakers. The full 90 minute recording is available for all to view.

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New Drug Treatment Shows Significant Benefit for People with ALS

These days, it seems everything is “news.” Or at least there needs to be enough “news” to fill the 24 hour news channels, your Facebook and Twitter feeds, and who knows how many website devoted to covering the “news.”

But in a time when everything claims to be “news,” it can be hard to tell when something genuinely newsworthy occurs. When we really ought to break out the “Breaking News” banners and pay attention.

For the ALS community, just such an event took place earlier this month, when the New England Journal of Medicine published encouraging clinical trial results showing that Amylyx Pharmaceuticals’ AMX0035 brought statistically significant benefit to people living with ALS. The study showed that AMX0035 decreased the rate of decline in the Revised ALS Functional Rating Scale (ALSFRS-R). The trial included 137 people with ALS and was conducted across 25 top medical centers through the Northeast ALS (NEALS) consortium.

People with ALS who received AMX0035 performed 2 points better on the ALSFRS-R compared to those who received the placebo. This is a statistically significant result, and in the real world could mean the difference between a person with ALS being able to feed themselves versus being fed, or the difference between needing a wheelchair versus not needing one.

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