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Ice Bucket Challenge ahead for Western New York Walk to Defeat ALS

Ellyn Maloney will be among the hundreds of people who dump an ice-cold bucket of water over their heads at Ralph Wilson Stadium on Sunday. It will be worth every soaking shiver if they can raise awareness about the need to more strongly confront ALS, a disease with no cure, and very limited treatment options.

Maloney’s husband, Mike, was diagnosed four years ago with the progressive condition that attacks the brain and spinal cord. He has lived longer than many afflicted with what also is known as Lou Gehrig’s disease. Unlike many, Mike can speak, swallow and eat. He, his wife and other loved ones have become advocates when it comes to the need for more awareness and research.

“We’re coping with it, probably because his attitude is so positive,” said Ellyn Maloney, 64, whose first outing with her husband was a blind date to Studio Arena. The couple married in 1975. They have three children, Jennifer Lambert, Marybeth Soeder and Colleen Griffith, nine grandchildren and, for the last three years, have fielded the top fundraising team in the Western New York Walk to Defeat ALS.

This year’s walk takes place at 11 a.m. Sunday at the Ralph. Afterward, the Maloney clan aims to figure largely in an attempt to break the world record of 882 people to do the Ice Bucket Challenge in person at the same time, a mark set in China two years ago. Sign up at web.alsa.org/got/IBCbuffalo.

Q. How has your life changed over the last four years?

It’s taken our relationship to a different level. We’ve always been very close and that’s very helpful. If you have a good marriage to start with, it’s a good foundation. We also have a faith-based relationship. I’m not going to say it’s not tough but together we seem to be doing OK.

Q. Have inroads been made since the challenge was introduced?

The association tells us progress has been made, but it’s slow and it takes so much money just to get one drug on the market, but they definitely feel like the challenge has made an impact. If you go on the ALS website (alsa.org), you’ll see that there’s different projects in different parts of the country. Doctors that we go to are more positive. They’re seeing hope that there might be something in the next few years.

– Scott Scanlon

On the Web: Read more about Ellyn Maloney’s caregiving role at refresh.buffalonews.com

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