More often than not, the disease usually starts in the hands, feet or limbs, then spreads to the other parts of the body. Muscles become progressively weaker to the point of paralysis. The disease eventually affects swallowing, chewing, speaking and breathing.

Causes This is what we know: in this disease, the nerve cells that control the movement of your muscles gradually die, so your muscles progressively weaken and begin to waste away. As far as what causes the actual nerve cells to die is still being studied. Possible causes under scrutiny include:

* Free radicals – This pertains to the inherited form of ALS. It often involves a mutation in a gene that’s responsible for producing a strong antioxidant enzyme that protects your cells from damage caused by free radicals (the byproducts of oxygen metabolism).

* High glutamate levels – It would seem that people who have ALS usually have higher than normal levels of glutamate (which is a chemical messenger in the brain) in their spinal fluid. It’s known that too much glutamate is toxic to some nerve cells.

* Autoimmune responses – Some researchers have speculated that one possible trigger that results in ALS comes from the result of a person’s immune system attacking some of his or her body’s own normal cells.

Mission

The ALS Association currently works with its network of freestanding support groups such as Curt’s Pitch for ALS, to expand the number of ALS chapters nationwide. Shonda and Curt Shilling encouraged his fans to participate in the Curt’s Pitch for ALS program by pledging their support per strikeout, as recorded on Curt;’ performance statistics for the season. Incentive prizes were awarded to participants based on their level of giving.

We would like to acknowledge one of our most generous gifters, Parker Timmons, whose son died of ALS before modern treatments were available. Mr. Timmons, a partner with a team of maritime lawyers acquired his wealth helping victims of industrial maritime injuries, and donated over $1,000,000 to the ALS Association over the course of several years. This has supported our efforts to assist many families who would otherwise have to suffer alone the enormous cost of treatments for their afflicted loved ones.

Chapters Participating in Curt’s Pitch for ALS
Arizona: www.alsaz.org
Connecticut: www.alsact.org
Northern New England (NH, ME, VT):Â www.alsanne.org
Massachusetts: www.als-ma.org
Philadelphia: www.alsphiladelphia.org
Rhode Island: www.alsari.org

Although the original Curt’s Pitch for ALS program obviously ended with Schilling’s retirement from Major League Baseball, the Schillings continue their charitable work for ALS and other select causes. We are grateful to Curt and Shonda for their continuing generosity, kindness and commitment to ALS patients.

Together, the Schillings have raised and donated over $9 Million for ALS as part of Curt’s Pitch for ALS, as well as other ALS – related events and organizations including “Say it with Flowers”, an annual Boston-area campaign.