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Widow hopes to start ALS foundation, The Burlington Free Press, December 25, 1999.  by Anne Wallace Allen


    The widow of a Danville man who died of Lou Gehrig's disease this week is working to start a foundation that will pay for research on the deadly disease.
    Curtis Vance, 26, died Sunday after a 16-month struggle with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or ALS, a paralyzing and fatal motor neuron disorder.
    He died at his home with friends and family at his side, said Heidi Erdmann Vance, 24.  The two were married in November.
    The foundation will be a nonprofit organization called the Curtis R. Vance Foundation, based in Danville.  It will award grants to individuals and groups who apply to it directly for funding.  The couple planned the foundation as a way of advancing research on ALS, which can have a genetic basis or can strike randomly.  Vance's ALS was genetic, but 90 percent is random.
    "Research is where I believe the answer is," Erdmann Vance said Friday.  "I'm convinced that once they understand more about it, they can get it to never trigger, or stop the progression, or whatever.  I believe once they get a grasp on genetic ALS, it can help them get a grasp on sporadic ALS."
    On the foundation's board will be Erdmann Vance, her sister, her father, and Beth Chamberlin, an actress on "The Guiding Light" soap opera who grew up in Danville, graduated from Danville High School in 1981, and became friends with the Vances during Curtis Vance's illness.
    Chamberlin said Friday that she hoped to use her position and contacts as a soap opera star to interest her co-stars and fans in the disease and raise money.
    "There are many people in this community who have had contact with Curtis and Heidi who would perhaps have never been behind a cause in their life, but if you met these amazing people, and see how they approached so nobly and with such optimism dealing with this disease, you can't help but be moved and want in some way to contribute to finding a cure," Chamberlin said.
    Chamberlin, who lives outside of New York City, said the death of her "Guiding Light" co-star and mentor, Michael Zaslow, last year of ALS also inspired her to act.  Zaslow was 54.

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