Archive for Wednesday, August 21, 2002

Basehor resident chairs ALS benefit

August 21, 2002

Watching others play golf is tough for Basehor resident Jerry Manford.

Once an avid outdoorsman, Manford began playing golf when he was 8 years old. His childhood love for the game extended into his adult life.

Today, Manford, 39, no longer has the ability to play. A year ago, the father of three was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS).

ALS is a neurological degenerative disorder that attacks motor neurons in the brain and spinal cord, eventually disrupting muscle movement.

His illness, however, doesn't keep him from still loving the game.

Manford was named honorary chairman of this year's annual George Brett Celebrity Golf Tournament at the Millburn Country Club.

The two-day tournament was Aug. 11 and 12 and featured sports legends such as George Brett, Roger Clemens and Buck O'Neil.

"It was a great day for golf," Manford said. "Really, the only bad thing was I really wanted to play but I couldn't."

The event raised approximately $113,000 for the ALS Foundation. Since its inception almost 20 years ago, the tournament has raised approximately $2 million to further research and study of the disease.

Manford said his role was mainly to help spread the word about ALS and those living with the disease.

"ALS is an orphan disease," he said. "A lot of people have heard of it but they don't really know what it is. My job was to help put a face to it."

Although meeting the celebrities and sports heroes that attended the tournament was nice, Manford said he was more impressed with the everyday people that helped host the fund-raiser.

"It's impressive when you see that many everyday people come out and support a cause," Manford said.

"To me, that's as important as someone with name recognition," he added.

The disease has taken its toll on Manford.

In June, Manford said he was having difficulty with his legs and was preparing to use a wheelchair.

Today, he's using the wheelchair part-time and a walking cane.

His weight has dropped slightly and he's also fallen a few times, once resulting in a concussion.

Regardless, he's still fighting the disease, which more than 5,000 Americans are diagnosed with each year. He said he tries not to let the disease control his life.

"It's taken a little while to be in the company of other people," he said. "It's a battle but I try not to let it interfere with my life."

Although he couldn't play in the tournament, Manford did enjoy watching his kids pick up interest in a game he once enjoyed.

"I got to watch my kids get out there and putt around, so that was fun," he said.

Manford will continue with fund-raisers for the ALS Foundation. He is putting together a team for a 5K run in coming weeks. He said anyone interested can call him at (913) 724-1215.

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