In February 2000, Tucson lost a respected juvenile court judge, Jim Himelic, to amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). Also known as Lou Gehrig's disease--named for its most famous victim--the fatal, degenerative disease affects people from all walks of life. It occurs randomly, and victims gradually lose muscle function due to loss of nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord, leading to death.
Generally, a person with ALS is expected to live for only two to five years from the time of diagnosis, as there is no known cure and an unfortunate shortage of research. Given the number of people affected, this is especially tragic: Every day, an average of 15 people are newly diagnosed with ALS, adding 5,600 new cases per year to the more than 30,000 Americans currently affected (as estimated by the ALS Association).
When Himelic died of the disease, it saddened friends, family and acquaintances.
"It was a very sad and devastating event for all of us, his family and friends, to see how it takes away everything but your ability to think," said Robin Martin, a longtime friend of the Himelic family. A foundation was created in Jim Himelic's memory, with the goal of supporting vital ALS research that will one day lead to a cure.
"The foundation was put together to raise money for research. It first provided the seed money to start the process of establishing a research lab," said Martin.
This Friday's fourth annual Himelic Memorial Golf Classic represents a key source of funding for the UA College of Medicine's research into the disorder. Since its inception, the event has raised more than $215,000 for the foundation.
It is expected that this year's golf tournament will have spaces available until the day of the event, and there are several options for participants. A golf and dinner package is available for $175 per person ($15 per person is tax-deductible), and dinner-only is available for $50 per person ($16 per person is tax-deductible). The format will be a four-person scramble, in which you may form your own foursome or be placed in one. Only 144 people may play, so make your reservations early.
The day begins at 10:30 a.m., when registration kicks off. A shotgun start begins the golf fun at 12:30 p.m., and the dinner (featuring a silent auction, live auction and cash bar) commences at 5:30 p.m. Advance registration is required for all activities.
This fun-filled day will not only provide Tucsonans with an exciting opportunity for some friendly golf competition, but it will also benefit ALS research right here in Tucson.
"Since its inception," says UA professor Dr. Timothy Miller, also director of the Neuromuscular Laboratory, "the Jim Himelic Foundation and its supporters have made a lasting impact on the local ALS research environment. Through their support, we have begun a basic science research program. ... The support of the Himelic Foundation has proved crucial in our gathering of pilot research data and will in turn allow us to seek additional funding for continued investigation."
The laboratory, with funding from the Himelic foundation, recently hired Dr. Jonathan Flax, a cellular biologist and stem cell expert, to further explore stem cells for their potential therapeutic effects.
Enjoy a day out on the green, good food, fun company and the knowledge that part of your ticket will benefit important research into a tragic disease affecting thousands of Americans. Why pass up an opportunity to help others by having fun?