Neighbor inspired recipient of Lou Gehrig spirit award to fight disease
Warwick dentist and resident Dr. Judy Pratt has been named by the Rhode Island Chapter of the ALS Association as this year’s recipient of the Spirit of Lou Gehrig Award.
She will be honored at the Chapter’s 16th annual Evening of Hope celebration Saturday, May 12 at the Newport Hyatt Regency.
Pratt is being recognized for her work as chair of the East Greenwich Rotary Club’s annual Scott Carlson Memorial Road Race, an event that has grown to be the single largest financial contributor to ALS-RI. At last year’s Evening of Hope, Pratt presented the association a check for $55,000, bringing the total generated by the race over its 11-year history to $330,000.
Pratt and the club plan to generate a similar amount from this year’s race, scheduled for April 21 at Goddard State Park. Race information is available at www.teamals.org.
Pratt, a partner in the dental practice of McManus and Pratt at 4512 Post Road, has been involved in the 11-year-old race since the second year and race director for the last five.
Her connection began when she and her family moved next door to Scott Carlson in Warwick, who had just been diagnosed with ALS.
Scott understood what the final outcome would be for him, but determined he would live what time was left to him to the fullest. An athletic young man, he was a runner, and to help other ALS victims he created the race that now bears his name. He was only able to attend the race several times, as his body withered and he died in 2003 at the age of 39.
As a neighbor, Dr. Pratt and her family got to know Scott well. They became part of a care group of family and friends who surrounded him with help and support as the disease progressed. Her 4-year-old daughter Samia and Scott became fast friends and the two spent hours together watching movies.
Pratt says that only those directly involved and have gone through it really know how bad it is. Unlike other diseases where there can be hope, ALS is always fatal.
There is no ALS in her family, but because of her connection to the race and dedication to helping raise money, ALS-RI invited her to be a member of their board of directors, where she has served now for four years. She serves with another East Greenwich Rotarian, Dr. Robert Miller, who lost his sister to ALS.
Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), often referred to as Lou Gehrig’s disease, is a fatal neurological disorder characterized by progressive degeneration of motor cells in the spinal cord and brain. Since there is no cure for ALS, the primary treatment is the management of symptoms and improving the quality of life.
Once ALS is diagnosed, the patient and family face a multitude of physical, emotional and financial needs. To provide assistance, the Rhode Island ALS Chapter offers a wide range of patient services and support, including home visits, support groups, medical equipment loans, respite care, handicapped transportation, home modifications and medical care for ALS patients at the Louise Wilcox Multidisciplinary ALS Clinic. The clinic is a huge patient resource, bringing together in a central location every type of doctor a patient will require to deal with the complications of ALS.
On May 12, the R.I. Chapter will also honor an individual with the Courage Award, honoring the memory of the late Providence Journal editorial columnist Brian Dickinson, who fought a long battle with ALS. The award recognizes a person with ALS who illustrates tremendous faith and courage and serves as a symbol of hope for others.
One of the past recipients of the Courage Award is Scott Carlson.