Aug. 21, 2006

Long-distance biker coming through Montrose, Mayer

By Samantha Schommer
Staff Intern

A man with a plan, a map, and a bike can accomplish many things, but Joe Wurl of Eden Prairie has a specific cause in mind.

Wurl, 35, began his 450-mile journey Aug. 19 in International Falls.

Over the course of eight days, he will bike south, distributing information about Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, or ALS, during the day, and sleeping in campgrounds during the night.

Wurl’s efforts are inspired by his friend, Scott Stafne, who was diagnosed with ALS nearly two years ago at the young age of 32.

In addition to adapting to his changing body and bringing a baby girl into the world, Scott and his wife have established the Scoff Stafne ALS Research Fund, with a goal of raising $100,000 for ALS research by the end of 2006.

Wurl wants to help them reach their goal with the donations he will acquire on his journey.

“Reality is, every night we go to bed we are all one day closer to the end. Scott’s end may be closer then others, but every time I see him, he has a smile on his face,” Wurl said. “Scott has a way of getting to your heart that makes you think about your own life. So when I ride through these towns, not only do I want to raise funds for ALS research and awareness of the disease, but also to make an impression that makes people feel good about life.”

ALS, also known as “Lou Gehrig’s Disease,” kills more people every year than MS, yet receives remarkably less attention.

It is a neurodegenerative disease which causes gradual loss of voluntary muscles, resulting in paralysis and death, typically within just two to five years from diagnosis.

ALS can strike anyone at any age. There are no effective treatments and no cure has been found. Worst of all, very little government funding has been spent to change the situation.

Wurl hopes his ride will make a difference, and perhaps even inspire others to join the fight against ALS.

He will not be accepting cash donations along his ride, but will accept checks made out to ALS Therapy Development Foundation.

One hundred percent of the proceeds will be used for ALS research through the ALS Therapy Development Foundation.

To learn more about the progress of Wurl’s ride and the Scott Stafne ALS Research Fund, or to make a donation online, log on to www.stafnes.com.

“It’s crazy how life works,” said Wurl. “You never know when it’s your time, but everyday you’re alive, you have the ability to make it better.”

Wurl will be biking through Mayer and Montrose Thursday, Aug. 24, giving out information on ALS, and accepting donations.

About ALS

Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), often referred to as “Lou Gehrig’s disease,” is a progressive neurodegenerative disease that attacks nerve cells in the brain and the spinal cord.

The disease belongs to a group of disorders known as motor neuron diseases, which are characterized by the gradual degeneration and death of motor neurons.

When the motor neurons die, the ability of the brain to initiate and control muscle movement is lost. With all voluntary muscle action affected, patients in the later stages of the disease become totally paralyzed. Yet, through it all, for the vast majority of people, their minds remain unaffected.

Currently, there is no cure or treatment for ALS; much of the management of the disease involves managing the symptoms and attempting to delay the progress. The average patient is given just two to five years to live following diagnosis.

The average age someone is diagnosed with ALS is 55, though the disease can strike at any age.

There are upwards of 8,000 new cases of ALS diagnosed in the US each year.

This information on ALS was taken from the ALS Association website at www.alsa.org.

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