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The Golden West Chapter Recognized at National ALS Association Leadership Conference

February 3, 2017- Irvine, California

The National ALS Association Leadership Conference is an annual gathering for volunteers and staff from across the country to come together to celebrate our heroes living with ALS and to focus on our goals for our mission priorities.  This year’s event was particularly special as The ALS Association Golden West Chapter was recognized with three awards for our staff and volunteer's efforts in service of the ALS community.

Hawaii Why We Walk Signs  

Debut of the "story signs" at the
2016 Hawai`i Walk to Defeat ALS


Introducing a young Walker to her grandfather
at the 2016 Monterey Walk to Defeat ALS


First, the Golden West Chapter was honored, for the second time, with the Innovation Award. The award is voted on by a group of Chapter Executives, Chapter Relations Staff, and National staff and was presented in recognition of a special Chapter public awareness campaign.

It all started when a family who participates in the Hawaii Walk to Defeat ALS suggested that the signage at the event should be more “personal”.  This feedback inspired an idea to create a new way to share the stories of people with ALS and their families along with the reason why they and their loved ones had chosen to fight against the disease. These "Story Signs" were debuted at the 2016 Hawaii Walk. The images of loved ones and personal stories both inspired and deeply moved participants and public alike, and the Chapter received many gracious and enthusiastic comments. Based on that incredible success, the Chapter decided to feature these signs at our Napa Valley Ride to Defeat ALS and at all of our fall Walk to Defeat ALS events. As the project was expanded to other locations in our service area, the number of signs grew to include a diverse mixture of individuals each inspired from their experiences to now make a difference for others. Event participants shared how much they appreciated our efforts and how validating it was to have their loved ones celebrated in this manner. In total, over 100 signs were created.  The Chapter then shared the images in a robust social media campaign called “Why We Walk/Ride Wednesdays” to inspire end of the year giving. You can view all of the Why We Walk and Why We Ride Story Signs on our Flickr channel and experience the impact of these incredible stories from ALS community.

  HIghest Number of Donors Award Napa

2016 "Highest Number of Donors" Presented to the Golden West Chapter's Napa Valley Ride to Defeat ALS

Next, the Chapter received the “Highest Number of Donors” Award for the 2016 Napa Valley Ride and Walk to Defeat ALS. The event made tremendous strides by having the highest amount of individual donors- totaling 5,549 - over all the Team Challenge ALS events nationwide, which includes all endurance event fundraisers; including all rides, hikes, runs, triathlons, snow mobile events, and more. This award was achieved through a concerted communications effort to incentivize large and small donations throughout the year. An example of a very effective campaign was the "Double Your Dozen" challenge led by the Ride's Co-Chair, John Grcina.  The goal was to encourage zero dollar fundraisers to either ask for donations or donate to themselves, by gifting them $12 (in honor of the event's 12th year). At the end of this push, John donated $12 to everyone at $0, whether or not they matched his gift; donating in total nearly $5,000! This inspired more donations and showed participants that a gift can come from anyone!

Eric Amador with Golden West Chapter Staff
Tammy Galt, Community Outreach Associate,
and Margie Petrakis, Care Manager

Finally, the proudest and most significant moment was the celebration of veteran Senior Chief Eric Amador, who was honored with the Hero Award for his achievements and efforts in public awareness, advocacy, and fundraising while living with ALS. A dedicated husband, father, and friend, Eric proudly served for 26 years in the US Navy as Senior Chef Culinary Specialist, which included terms on the Presidential Food Service White House Navy Mess under Presidents Bush and Obama. For a complete portrait of Eric’s determination and courage, please see “On the Importance of Speaking Up and Taking Care of Our Own

This past year, Eric was a special panelist at the Stanford University’s Medicine X, a unique initiative about emerging technologies to advance medicine, improve health, and empower patients to be active participants in their own care. In addition to his many efforts to raise awareness and support, Team Eric Amador Presidential Chef has been one of the top teams at the Central Valley Walk to Defeat ALS over the past two years. This year, Eric introduced the Golden West Chapter to Celebrity Chef Robert Irvine, with whom Eric worked in the White House. Chef Irvine’s presence and culinary delights at the 2016 Walk brought increased public awareness, participant enjoyment and fundraising success to the event, such that this Central Valley Walk achieved 121% of its fundraising goal.

 Fred, Eric, and Toni

 Eric Amador with his wife Toni, and
Golden West Chapter
President & CEO, Fred Fisher 

At the presentation, a consistent theme was that these heroes living with ALS have help and support from loved ones. “...Another thing that our heroes today have in common, and a thing most of us have in common, is that we have people behind us for support," said Fred Fisher, President & CEO of the Golden West Chapter. "In this case, Toni, Eric’s wife, has taken awesome care of Eric." As a surprise, Chef Irvine also delivered a special message to Eric which was shown at the event. Later on, Eric spoke to the group using a speech-generating device, “It is an honor to receive the ALS Hero Award this evening. I truly believe that the real heroes are the ones that are living with ALS and the family members that are supporting them.”

In addition these remarkable awards, the Leadership Conference recognized the many fantastic volunteers, participants, and staff who made the success of the many 2016 Golden West Chapter events possible. Congratulations to everyone in our ALS community for their efforts to reach these milestones in support of our mission!