Cal. Rec. June '01


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Curtis Vance Event to Fight ALS, The Caledonian Record, June 21, 2001.  Written by Brad Usatch

    For most people, ALS, or amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, is better known as Lou Gehrig's disease.  For many residents of the Danville area, ALS will always be associated with the name Curtis R. Vance.

    Vance died of ALS in December 1999 at the age of 26, just a year after having been diagnosed, and less than a month after marrying Heidi Erdmann.

    In the winter of 1999 Curtis and Heidi Vance create the Curtis R. Vance Foundation, a nonprofit corporation whose purposes include public education, funding research for a cure, and providing assistance to the victims of ALS and their families.  Nearly all of the money raised by the foundation goes directly to the cause.  Of the $30,000 raised by the foundation last year, $5,000 was donated for research to Massachusetts General Hospital, where Curtis was treated.

    ALS is a disease that attacks motor neurons in the brain and spinal cord, gradually paralyzing the victim.  Only 10 percent of all cases are genetic, which means that 90 percent of those afflicted had no family history.

    Early symptoms often include weakness in the extremities, twitching muscles, or difficulty swallowing.  The average life expectancy of a person diagnosed with ALS is two to five years.

    The disease affects people of all races and ethnicities.  It typically strikes those between 40 and 70 years old, but it can affect younger people as well.

    Throughout his year-long battle with the disease, Curtis Vance remained upbeat and confident that a cure would be found.  During their short time together as husband and wife, ALS took a physical, emotional and financial toll on the Vances.  Now one of the foundation's goals is to make life a little bit easier for those living with ALS, through financial assistance and by sharing what others have learned through their own experiences.

    Heidi Vance stressed that the work the foundation is doing today goes way beyond preserving the memory of her late husband.  "The foundation works for people living with ALS now, both here at home and around the nation," she said.

    Approximately 30,000 Americans are currently diagnosed with ALS, a relatively small number.  But as Vance pointed out, 5,000 new cases are diagnosed every year which means approximately the same number die from the disease annually.  In Danville alone, another family lost someone to ALS last year, and yet another resident is currently battling the disease.  "It's everywhere," Vance noted.

    Since losing Curtis, Heidi Vance has dedicated herself to the foundation.  This weekend marks the second annual Curtis R. Vance Spring Celebration designed to help raise money for the charity and spread awareness of the disease and its local impact.

    This year the celebration hosts the First Annual Curtis R. Vance Invitational at the St. Johnsbury Country Club, and a dinner/dance at the Curtis R. Vance Memorial Orchard in North Danville.

    The Curtis R. Vance Foundation is a tax exempt 501(c)(3) organization.  For more information call Heidi Erdmann Vance at 684-3634.

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