KINGSTON, R.I.—November 7, 2007—It was called the Walk Around the Quad and was held in conjunction with the Walk to D’Feet ALS, a benefit to fight Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis. But in reality, it turned out to be a day when about 250 members of the University of Rhode Island community showed their love and affection for one of their own who has been stricken by the disease.
On a bright mid-October day, faculty, staff and students greeted longtime Economics Professor Yngve Ramstad with hugs, kisses and smiles as they prepared to make their four-lap walk around the Quadrangle. As people gathered, they wrote out checks and tossed cash into a bucket for the ALS benefit. By the end of the day, they had donated some $3,000 to benefit research and support for ALS patients. Other donations to Ramstad’s Rams, as the walkers named themselves, brought the team’s contribution to the ALS Association to more than $10,000.
Ramstad, who was diagnosed with ALS last December, was able to attend the event with help from the state ALS support group. As he prepared to talk from his wheelchair, Ramstad was smiling. “Thank you all for coming out today, I am very grateful,” he said. “Thank you also for supporting the fight against ALS.”
ALS, commonly referred to as Lou Gehrig’s disease, is a progressive, fatal neuromuscular disease that attacks nerve cells in the brain and the spinal cord. As a result, the brain cannot control the voluntary muscles and the muscles atrophy. The life expectancy of an ALS patient averages between two to five years after diagnosis. Nearly 30,000 Americans now have ALS with approximately 5,600 new cases being diagnosed each year. At this time there is no known cause, prevention, or cure for ALS.
As the group walked the Quad on the bright mild day in Kingston, they were accompanied by the sound of the Dixieland jazz from the URI Traditional Jazz Band. Ramstad was a member of the band and spoke affectionately about his decision to resume playing his trombone with the band. During his 25 years of service at URI, Ramstad was also the Faculty Athletics Representative to the NCAA and head of the Athletics Advisory Board. “I had an opportunity to meet thousands of students and am so thankful for that experience, and I am privileged to witness firsthand the work ethic and self-discipline of so many student-athletes,” Ramstad said.
Gregg Burke, deputy director of athletics and one of the organizers of the event, said of Ramstad, “This is a man who has a heart as big as the Quad and enough friends to fill it.”
Barbara Luebke, journalism professor and the “captain” of the team, the Ramstad’s Rams, thanked everyone who contributed to the walk. “Your generosity – of dollars and spirit- means more than you can know.” The organizers of the event, Economics Professor Glen Ramsay, Burke, and Luebke, were impressed that walkers came from all corners of the campus to participate.
Walk to D’Feet ALS was launched by the ALS Association in 1999 and is the Association’s largest nationwide event designed to raise money to find a cure for ALS, and to increase the awareness of the disease. Now in its eighth year, approximately 150 Walks will be held around the country.
Last year, walkers nationwide raised more than $12 million to support cutting-edge research and patient services programs. This year’s Rhode Island walk – attended by representatives from Ramstad’s Rams — raised more than $76,000