Imagine being confined to one room for days, months, even years and then finding a home that enables you to regain your independence and, with it, your dignity. That home is the Leonard Florence Center for Living (LFCL), the first urban model Green House in the country.
The LFCL features neurological specialty residences with cutting-edge assistive technology, allowing individuals with ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease) and MS (multiple sclerosis) to receive skilled nursing care in a nurturing home environment. The 7th annual ALS & MS Walk for Living, a fundraiser to support these individuals as well as the innovative residences, will be held on Sunday, September 27, at 165 Captains Row on Admirals Hill at 10 a.m.
For the second year in a row, Matt Siegel, host of the popular “Matty in the Morning” show on KISS-108, will act as emcee and kick-off the two-mile walk. Media sponsors include the Independent Newspaper Group; major corporate sponsors include Biogen, M&T Bank, AHOA, Kayem and Clifton Larson. Immediately following the walk, there will be a BBQ hosted by Chili’s, doughnuts provided by Dunkin Donuts, face painting, live dance performances, a petting zoo, a photo booth and a raffle. There is a $10 donation fee to participate in the Walk, which includes a Walk for Living tee shirt, the BBQ and all the activities. The Walk for Living is one of the few walks that are dog-friendly.
Bonnie Berthiaume was the first multiple sclerosis resident to move into the Leonard Florence Center for Living in 2010. The Center has, quite simply, changed her life.
“Since moving here, I have been able to participate in wonderful outings; we have gone to Red Sox games, movies and the theatre,” explains Bonnie. “I have even gone skydiving three times!” The Leonard Florence Center, sponsored by the Chelsea Jewish Foundation, consists of 10 homes, with 10 residents living in each home. The ALS and MS residents, many of whom are completely immobilized, are able to control the lights, turn on the TV, open doors and raise window shades – just by using their eyes.
Ten years after his ALS diagnosis, Patrick O’Brien, another LFCL resident, premiered his extraordinary film “TransFatty Lives” at the prestigious Tribeca Film Festival in New York City. Lauded by both critics and attendees, the film won the “Top Audience Award,” which is the highest possible honor and chosen by peers. Although Patrick needs round-the-clock ventilation, he lives an active and busy life at the Center. In addition to producing films, Patrick travels, attends concerts, sporting events, movies and premiers.
“I was officially diagnosed with ALS when I was 30 years old,” explains O’Brien. “It is a fatal and incurable disease yet I have chosen to do something with my illness. This challenge has given me a focal point for my energies, and will hopefully inspire others to keep moving through their own adversities.”
Over the years, the ALS & MS Walk for Living has become an integral part of the local community. This year’s walk is expected to attract over 1000 walkers. The event this year will also honor Everett High School teacher Susan Lomas, who has been involved in the Walk since the start and has been instrumental in getting so many of the Everett High School’s students involved throughout the years. Chelsea High School students and their families have also committed to turning out in full force for this event, as they have in the past.
“We are extremely grateful for the support of our local communities, businesses, residents and their families, and the many friends of the Chelsea Jewish Foundation,” said Barry Berman, CEO of the Chelsea Jewish Foundation. “The Walk for Living is crucial in helping our residents live richer and fuller lives.”
“It was such a wonderful experience last year getting to know these inspiring and courageous residents,” notes Matt Siegel. “I am thrilled to once again emcee this year’s ALS & MS Walk for Living.”
Support the ALS & MS Walk for Living by sponsoring or joining a team, or making a much-needed donation at www.walkforliving.org or call Joelle Smith at 617-409-8973 or email [email protected] To view videos about the LFCL residents, please go to http://vimeo.com/24641660, http://vimeo.com/39457786