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Gathered in front of a field of 6,000 planted pinwheels are participants from the 2011 ALS Ride for Life Celebration & Remembrance Ceremony at Stony Brook University. From left: Stony Brook University Studio Art students Gregory Diaz, Abby Ng, and Natalia Wagner, next to their giant and colorful pinwheel creation; Assemblymen Steve Englebright and Michael J. Fitzpatrick; Suffolk County Legislator Dwayne Gregory; Steven L. Strongwater, M.D., CEO, Stony Brook University Hospital; Rahman Pourmand, M.D., Medical Director, Christopher Pendergast ALS Center of Excellence; and ALS patients Christopher Pendergast and Bob Margolis, holding a $68,000 check in support of the ALS Center of Excellence.
Event Raises $68,000 for Christopher Pendergast ALS Center of Excellence at Stony Brook

Gusts of wind twirled scores of the 6,000 pinwheels planted on the Stony Brook University campus during the 2011 Ride for Life Celebration & Remembrance Ceremony on May 14. The pinwheels, representing the lives lost annually to ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis), or Lou Gehrig's disease, seemed to have a vibrant life of their own during the ceremony commemorating those who have lost their lives due to ALS, with the hope that a cure is "blowin’ in the wind." The Stony Brook event is a cornerstone of the annual ALS Ride for Life, a 12-day trek from Riverhead to Manhattan, which ends May 21.

Leading five ALS patients riding their motorized wheelchairs onto the South P Lot on Stony Brook's West campus to the ceremony was Christopher Pendergast, an 18-year ALS patient, Founder and President, Ride for Life. In December, 2010, the ALS Comprehensive Care Center at Stony Brook University Medical Center, the only ALS Association Certified Center on Long Island, was renamed in honor of Pendergast, to the Christopher Pendergast ALS Center of Excellence. Annual proceeds from the Ride go to Center to help fund patient care and research.

"I feel exhilarated, and I am happy to see the great turnout and support for the Ride for Life ceremony at Stony Brook," said Pendergast upon entering the Stony Brook campus. "We must not forget those we have lost or the hope that a cure for ALS can become a reality."

"The road to defeating this frightening disease is going to be a long journey," said Steven L. Strongwater, M.D., CEO, Stony Brook University Hospital. "Stony Brook University Medical Center will be in this battle against ALS for the long haul, and someday there will be a cure."

During the Remembrance Ceremony, 90 names of patients lost to ALS were read aloud. Family members then placed a pinwheel in the field in honor of their lost loved one. Families and friends gathered silently, many in tears, as they planted the pinwheels. The readings included patient names from towns all over Long Island, as well as New York State, New Jersey, Connecticut, North Carolina, Arizona, and other states.

Those gathered at the ceremony also took part in an interfaith healing prayer and witnessed a moving rendition of "Blowin’ in the Wind" by guitarist/singer Mary Timmons.

Highlighting the ceremony conclusion was the unveiling of a sculpture created by several Studio Arts students at Stony Brook University. The sculpture, a group of large, multicolored pinwheels on a stand, offers a bright representation of the hope that a cure for ALS is indeed, blowing in the wind. The sculpture will be installed in the lobby of Stony Brook University Hospital.

A check for $68,000 was also presented by the Ride for Life to the Christopher Pendergast ALS Center of Excellence.

2011 marks the 14th annual Ride for Life, an event that occurs each May during ALS Awareness Month. Since the inception of the ALS Comprehensive Care Center at Stony Brook in 2002, Pendergast and the patient advocacy group has granted nearly $400,000 to the Center.

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