CARROLLWOOD – Every few weeks Gary Dassatti loses friends to one of the most deadly diseases in the world.
There’s no known cure, at least not yet, but Dassatti, who lives in Cheval, is convinced there is an answer and he has been working tirelessly to prevent another death.
He’s lost some of his best friends to ALS, which most people know as Lou Gehrig’s disease. Gehrig, a Hall of Fame baseball player lost his life just two years after the end of his playing career back in 1939. The fast-moving disease basically disconnects the brain from the muscular system and the body slowly deteriorates.
For his part, Dassatti deems himself a “nag,” spending time on Facebook, using social media, and hosting events to bring awareness to the cause. He’s hosted several in the past year in the Carrollwood area, and is now going countywide with his Ride for a Cure bicycle ride, a fundraiser for the nonprofit Ride to Defeat ALS, early November. Right now he is concentrating on organizing two-mile walks throughout the state. He is hosting one on March 8 at the University of South Florida, as well as hosting his annual golf fundraiser at Cheval Golf Club in late July.
Besides those events, Dassatti regularly hosts benefits at local restaurants. At 65, his goal is to add years to people’s lives who don’t have many left.
“When you get this disease, it is fatal,” Dassatti said. “If we can even find one more year for them, that’s worth it. We need everyone to help. No one deserves this fate. We have to find a cure.”
Maggie Nolen, regional development manager for the Walk to Defeat ALS Florida chapter, said that the organization is hoping to raise more than $175,000 with the walk. They have been sending out public service announcements and trying to get the word out.
“We are just trying to get people to know how important it is that we fight this,” Nolen said. “Gary does a great job for us and I know it will be a success.”
Alyssa Gutierrez, director of marketing, pointed out something few people know about ALS.
“Military veterans are twice as likely to get ALS,” she said. “The situation is that ALS is not incurable, it is just under funded. We need to find out why veterans are struggling with this disease. We can only find out through research.”
For more on the effort to fight ALS, email Gary Dassatti at [email protected]