ALS Across America
Family Ties Prompt Local Woman and Her Relatives to Fight Lou Gehrig’s Disease on Behalf of The ALS Association’s St. Louis Regional Chapter
Gump was diagnosed with familial ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis) in 2005. Her maternal grandfather was the first in her family to have the disease, and following Gump’s diagnosis, her mother was diagnosed with ALS. Commonly referred to as Lou Gehrig’s Disease, ALS is a progressive, neurodegenerative muscular disease that usually has a survival rate of two to five years from the time of diagnosis. Familial, or inherited, ALS occurs in 10% of all cases of the disease, while 90% of those living with ALS did not inherit the disease and have sporadic ALS. Besides her grandfather, six other relatives of Gump—including an uncle, aunts and cousins—have died due to the disease.
A lead analyst at RGA Reinsurance Co., Gump, 43, lives in St. Peters, Mo., with her husband, Pete, 46, and two young children, George, 6, and Emily, 4.
Gump and her extended family work closely with The ALS Association’s St. Louis Regional Chapter in educating the public about Lou Gehrig’s Disease throughout the year.
“Jessica is an excellent spokesperson for our organization,” said Robert Wessels, chapter president. “She has an amazing grace about her and how she faces the challenges ALS presents. People are immediately drawn to her and her story.”
The chapter has proclaimed the Gump family the family that best exemplifies the spirit of “ALS Across America” for the chapter during ALS Awareness Month in May. The “ALS Across America” national campaign recognizes courageous individuals with ALS and their caregivers who are role models to people with Lou Gehrig’s Disease. These special individuals reflect the spirit of the organization as they make a positive difference in their community by expanding awareness of ALS and embodying the spirit of living life to the fullest.
“Jessica is always available to speak about ALS to a group of people on behalf of our chapter,” Wessels stated. “She has ALS information available at her work, and she involves co-workers in our chapter’s annual event, the Walk to Defeat ALS™, that raises funds in support of The Association’s cutting-edge research and local patient services programs.”
Throughout May, The Association and its nationwide network of 41 chapters will reach out to communities across the country to educate the public about Lou Gehrig’s Disease and urge people to join The Association in the fight to make ALS a disease of the past.
The Association’s National ALS Advocacy Day and Public Policy Conference, which has grown to be the single largest gathering of the ALS community, and is part of ALS Awareness Month, will be held this year on May 11-13 in Washington, D.C.
Gump and her cousin Diana Wunning attended the national event in 2006, where they met with Missouri’s senators and representatives, and Gump has volunteered to attend this year’s national conference.
Last year, Gump and her family traveled to the Missouri State Advocacy Day, where they worked with state legislators on funding for ALS services. During this event, Gump’s state senator and a representative recognized her with a proclamation for the work she has done for ALS awareness and advocacy.
“Jessica and her extended family are the reasons why The ALS Association exists,” Wessels continued. “We focus on patient services, and Jessica is important to us. To our chapter, she represents the epitome of a young person who struggles along with her family with the challenges of living with the disease.”
In January 2008, Wunning received The Association’s prestigious Lotz Humanitarian Award for their efforts in fighting the disease. The Association presents this award annually to individuals who have demonstrated devotion to patient services and have promoted quality of life and the welfare of patients and their families. Wunning lost her sister, Dorothy Howard, in 1992 to ALS.
The Association is the pre-eminent leader in the fight against Lou Gehrig’s Disease. The mission of the organization is to lead the fight to cure and treat ALS through global, cutting-edge research, and to empower people with Lou Gehrig’s Disease and their families to live fuller lives by providing them with compassionate care and support.