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Water Cooler: Tackling ALS

Last week, before the Lehigh/Princeton game, I stopped in to check on a friend, who just happened to be at the Rust Pavillion.

FB Brett Snyder, a hero of mine, was there to raise some funds for his ongoing effort to beating ALS, a disease he was diagnosed with nine years ago.

Never one to shy away from challenges on the football field, after being given only 18 months to live eight years ago, Brett never gave up, and today he's still fighting.  I was thrilled to be just a very small part of the celebration and fundraiser this past Saturday.

When then-head coach Pete Lembo broke the news to me and other members of the Lehigh football family, and it was a complete shock.

As a fullback on some of Lehigh's greatest football teams, he truly set the gold standard for other Lehigh fullbacks to aspire to become.  As much for his offensive contribution, his physical play and his blocking downfield paved the way for others to have amazing football careers at Lehigh as well, allowing QB Phil Stambaugh and a host of other Lehigh athletes to have spectacular college football careers, and cultivating excitement in terms of I-AA playoff wins as well.

"Unfortunately in 2003, Brett was diagnosed with ALS, better known as Lou Gehrig's disease," Brett's former teammate, WR Kody Fedorcha, wrote in the invite to the tailgate.  "ALS is a disease with no known cure that causes a progressive degeneration of the motor neurons (causing the muscles in a patient to atrophy).   Brett was given 18 months to live based on the averages but 8 years later Brett continues to battle.   Early on, because Brett's health still allowed him to participate in most clinical trials, we started the Tackle ALS Foundation that focused on raising money for research and raising awareness for disease that only affects 1 in 50,000 Americans. 

"As the years passed, Brett's challenges changed to facing the most basic tasks at home.  These challenges carry a cost that is not just physical and not always covered by insurance, such as home modifications to accommodate a wheel chair, treatments not acknowledged by insurance providers, etc...   In short, we cannot fight Brett's battle versus ALS but donations can ensure he is focused strictly on beating this disease."

It's worth pausing and thinking about the amount of money some of these modifications cost - something that's not done often enough these days.  Like buying special cars, for example, to allow for wheelchair access, which can cost more than $30,000 or more.  Or retrofitting a house to make everything wheelchair-accessible.  Health insurance covers some of these costs, but not all.

That's why Brett, Kody, Rich Knupp of the Lehigh Athletic Partnership and myself were at the Rust Pavillion last weekend, enjoying the Snyder family, Brett's son, Tate, and the smiles from folks that were able to come out and show Brett his support.

And I was glad to see Brett smiling as well, ready to indulge in one of his passions that day - Lehigh football, of course, on a perfect day for Mountain Hawk football. 



Last year's fundraiser for the Snyder family raised over $10,000 for their cause, and even though the tailgate is over, I'd encourage that it not stop you from donating to the Snyder family to make sure that Brett is able to continue to fight ALS, and not worry about all the other stuff.  I'm a proud donor to this cause, and I'm hoping that other people will do the same.

Contact me at this blog, or Rich Knupp with the Athletics Partnership (rknupp@lehigh.edu), for information on how to donate.

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